Knowledges in Publics [1 ed.] 9781443853736, 9781443849470

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Knowledges in Publics

Knowledges in Publics

Edited by

Lorraine Locke and Simon Locke

Knowledges in Publics, Edited by Lorraine Locke and Simon Locke This book first published 2013 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2013 by Lorraine Locke, Simon Locke and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-4947-2, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-4947-0


List of Figures............................................................................................ vii List of Tables ............................................................................................ viii Introduction ................................................................................................. 1 Lorraine Locke and Simon Locke Part One: Knowledges in Publics Chapter One ............................................................................................... 16 Rethinking Public Knowledge of Science: The Process of Crafting the Concept of “Science in the Service of Citizens and Consumers” Chris Toumey, John Besley, Meg Blanchard, Mark B. Brown, Michael Cobb, Elaine Howard Ecklund, Margaret Glass, Thomas Guterbock, Anthony E. Kelly and Bruce Lewenstein Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 35 Natural Science Meets Social Science: The NRC’s 2009 Report on “Learning Science in Informal Environments Bruce V. Lewenstein Part Two: Public Venues of Knowledge Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 50 Public Understanding of Science via Research Areas in Science Museums: the Evaluation of the EU Project NANOTOTOUCH Claudia Geyer, Katrin Neubauer and Doris Lewalter Chapter Four .............................................................................................. 75 Following the Story of the Pacemaker: From “Clean Room” to Exhibition Space Ines Hülsmann and Ana-Maria Raus


Table of Contents

Chapter Five ............................................................................................ 105 Theatrescience 2002-2013 Jeff Teare Chapter Six .............................................................................................. 119 Looking Beyond Needs: Capacity Focused Development through the Socio-Drama Topography Process Stephen Sillett and Jennifer Jiminez Part Three: Public Mediations of Knowledge Chapter Seven.......................................................................................... 150 Newspapers as the Arena of Scientific Controversy: The Debate about the “Orce Man” in the Spanish Mass Media Miquel Carandell Chapter Eight ........................................................................................... 171 Mad Doctors, Bad Academics and Knowledgeable Locals: Some Preliminary Observations on the Use of Membership Categorisation Analysis for the Study of Public Meanings of Science Simon Locke Chapter Nine............................................................................................ 199 The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm: The Maturing Image of Science in 20th Century Juvenile Literature Alice Bell Chapter Ten ............................................................................................. 215 How Popular Culture Engages and Debates Scientific Thought: Scientific and Supernatural Narratives in Late Victorian Gothic Kate Roach Contributors ............................................................................................. 245


3.1 Duration of visits in minutes................................................................ 62 3.2 Means of situational interest and basic needs satisfaction during the visit ..................................................................................... 64 5.1 Production shot from “Something Somatic” by Simon Turley, featuring Richard Pepper and Rachel Donovan, London, 2007 ......... 111 6.1 Phases of an initiative using Socio-Drama Topography (SDT) process ............................................................................................... 126 6.2 Stages of readiness for a project utilising the SDT process and capacities achieved through external technical support .............. 127 6.3 Location of partner organisations in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, RSA.................................................................................................... 130 6.4 Changing the classroom configuration to enable engagement ........... 135 6.5 Phases of readiness and capacities for WASH SDT project .............. 140 6.6 Trial workshop in Manguzi developing map for WASH SDT process ............................................................................................... 141 6.7 Scope of pilot phase of WASH SDT by 2013 ................................... 144


1.1 A 3x3 matrix of Purposes and Content showing how certain kinds of knowledge fit into cells.................................................................... 22 1.2 A matrix of Purposes and Content focusing on questions about medications .......................................................................................... 23 3.1 Scales used in the study ....................................................................... 59 3.2 Multiple regression analysis: ß weights and p values of the basic needs on situational interests Catch and Hold...................................... 65 3.3 Multiple regression analysis: ß weights and p values of person variables and characteristics of the visit on perceived knowledge increase regarding nano-topics and nano-research............................... 68


This book grew out of a Science and the Public Conference that has become an annual event in the UK over the past several years. The 6th Annual Conference in 2011 was held at Kingston University in SouthWest London and billed as “A Quarter-Century of PUS” to mark, if somewhat belatedly, the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Royal Society’s 1985 report into the public understanding of science (PUS) (aka the Bodmer report). Against this background, the Conference was seen as an opportunity to reflect on the development of the field over its brief lifetime and consider its prospects for the future. The present book continues this intent by aiming to contribute to the movement of scholarly work beyond matters of deficit, engagement and transfer principally through a strong focus on what might be called “informal science education” (see Lewenstein’s chapter below). Much of the debate about PUS concerns the relationship between knowledge, education and democracy voicing a longstanding concern in western societies over the extent to which effective citizenship requires appropriate education. Can people be proper citizens if they have not been taught how to be so? On the other hand, is educating people in how to be proper citizens merely a guise for ensuring they continue to support the status quo? What, and whose, notion of “proper” is being advocated? Similarly, by “education” do we mean only that provided by formally designated educational institutions? Or is it possible for people to become self-educated “informally”, outside of such formal contexts? The tension over whether people need “proper” direction or if they are capable of directing their learning for themselves is apparent in the debate over PUS that ensued after the publication of the Bodmer report in the UK. Bodmer’s clear view was that the public needed direction. Despite evidence of strong public interest in science and a distinct absence of evidence of widespread public ignorance, Bodmer emphasised a view of the public as needing “improvement” in their understanding of science and in so doing established the basis of what soon came to be called the “deficit model” of PUS. For Bodmer, this was not just a deficit of



knowledge, but also one of democratic capability; because of the extensive presence of science in more and more areas relevant to public policy, having knowledge of science and its procedures was presented as being increasingly vital to effective citizenship. If people do not understand the science (and technology) about which policy decisions are being made, then how can they be trusted to make the right decisions, both indirectly via the ballot-box and more directly via the marketplace (a point addressed in Toumey et al.’s chapter below). Thus, to be proper citizens they need educating in science, but it has to be science of the proper kind. The anxiety expressed by Bodmer was that, if left to their own devices, the public are not merely effectively disenfranchised by their ignorance, but even worse, vulnerable to various kinds of improper “science”, in fact not really “science” at all, but “pseudo-science” spouted by various kinds of charlatan in a growing threat from a New Age of superstition and antienlightenment–an “anti-scientific” attack on the very foundation of modernity (Holton 1992). The deficit model quickly came under strong attack, partly for its oversimplification of a complex social world made up of multiple sciences with multiple understandings by multiple publics (Birke 1990; Ziman 1991) and partly because it was seen as a guise for advocating continuing support for the formal institutional apparatus of science: by “understanding” was really meant “appreciation” and “acceptance” (Wynne 1992). Likewise, the notion of “anti-science” was seen as a means of deflecting and undermining public criticism of the deficiencies of this formal apparatus. From this view, the deficit resided not so much with the public as with scientists, who themselves failed to appreciate ordinary people’s knowledge or accept the legitimacy of their concerns about science and technology, thereby appearing arrogant and dismissive. Thus, it is not so much the public who need to be educated in science, as scientists who need to be educated about the public and, likewise, the democratic deficit resides in the institutional apparatus of formal science. From this viewpoint, the public do not require direction by scientists, or at least not by scientist-advocates of the formal order; rather, the public are both capable of self-direction in educating themselves about science and equally capable of deciding when such education is necessary for them– and indeed, when it is not (Michael 1996). The upshot of this debate in the UK was a shift in language from “deficit” to “dialogue” (House of Lords 2000). In practice, however, the prevailing voice in science-public relations has become that of “engagement”, but the extent to which this marks a genuine shift beyond the monologue of the deficit model has been called into question (Lock

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2011). On the face of it, people’s participation in discussion of the activities and still less the institutional orders of formal science seems rather less sought after than their enjoyment of interactive sideshows. Accordingly, the issue of democratic deficit has again been a focus of critical attack (Wynne 2008). From this perspective, “engagement” is an avoidance tactic: a way of appearing to address concerns over public involvement in science, while actually not changing anything fundamental at all. Indeed, engagement is really “deficit” by another name, since the directing concern remains that of improving public understanding (read: acceptance) of science albeit that the strategies employed to do so are along the lines of “edutainment” rather more than the formal didacticism of the professorial voice. Not so much “citizen science” (Irwin 1995) then, as consumer science. Alongside this sop to citizenship has come a further development at in the form of the notion of “knowledge transfer” (KT). This term, rooted in organisation and management theory, pre-dates the broad adoption of “engagement” (one of us first encountered it as an Economic and Social Research Council PUS Fellow in 1998), but has since been taken up in the UK especially in regard to university research, which is now to be assessed for its KT “impact”. This seems to cover a range of possible relations with wider publics, although perhaps with a preference for economic actors since KT is linked to notions of the “knowledge economy”, thus emphasising the role of knowledge in directing innovation and production. In this respect, “transfer” is at the other end of the economic chain to “engagement” and taken together they might be seen as partners in a dual strategy to direct economic action principally through science-driven technological innovation. It is, after all, one thing to look to science as a source of new products, but quite another to ensure there is a ready supply of eager consumers for those products. If and in so far as developed economies now do look to science as the basic engine-driver of economic growth, then its legitimacy needs to be upheld or the products themselves may be seen as part of the problem rather than the solution. Thus, encouraging citizens to participate in genuine debate about the formal institutions of science is potentially perilous, since they may call into question the steering of scientific research toward currently preferred agendas of technoscientifically-constituted economic activity. Viewed in this light, KT arguably shares with “engagement” the same basic framework of deficiency. Although there is much emphasis on recognising the grounding of knowledge in local “networks”, nonetheless, the metaphor of “transferring” conveys the sense of shifting a given thing from one context to another in an essentially unchanged form.



Accordingly, knowledge is apparently invested with a thing-like quality, as something that can be simply reproduced from one situation to another, as in, for example, notions of transferring “best practice”, carrying the implication that practices are divorceable from the immediate social contexts in which they are constituted and that they constitute. Such a conception of knowledge as a clearly bounded, thing-like given that can be lifted from one context and placed into another without change, informs the “knowledge-quiz” surveys that arose from the deficit model and came to epitomise its major flaws (Evans and Durant 1989; Irwin and Wynne 1996). KT indicates that, at least amongst those responsible for governing publicly-funded scientific research, there is little real interest in encouraging genuine public dialogue and rather more in imposing a restrictive regime of knowledge production in the hope of revivifying a flagging economy, the barbaric (in Matthew Arnold’s sense) assault of the current UK coalition government on the social sciences and humanities being perhaps a more obvious indicator. The papers in this book, however, point in varying ways and to different degrees to a significantly different conception of knowledge and its public(s). As stated, broadly these studies fall into what, following Lewenstein, we will call “informal science education”, incorporated into which, as he outlines, are such outlets as museums, theatre, the mass media and fiction involving science. Accordingly, we have divided the papers into three parts reflecting their concern with: knowledges in publics; public venues of knowledge (museums and theatre); and public mediations of knowledge (mass media and popular culture).

Part One: Knowledges in Publics The two papers in Part One provide summary overviews of the general state of discussion at the present time regarding how best to conceptualise the relationship between the public and science. Although both document discussions held in the United States, the issues they address have some general applicability, as indicated by the reference they make to the Bodmer report, but also as becomes apparent from ensuing chapters in which aspects of the global reach of the science-public relation are documented and explored. As Chris Toumey et al. make apparent, these matters are of longstanding interest in the United States, which has had a tradition of survey research into “science literacy” reaching back over several decades. However, while acknowledging the longitudinal value of this work, their remit arose from recognition by the National Science Board of the

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National Science Foundation that there was a need to revise the existing approach, which narrowly construed “science literacy” in terms not unlike those of the UK and European deficit model. Even by its own criteria of democratic efficacy, Toumey et al. consider this approach flawed, partly because it is not clear that high levels of science literacy are either attainable or necessary for effective democratic action and partly because the politically motivated conception of why people may want scientific knowledge is too circumscribed. Instead, Toumey et al. propose a framework for assessing public knowledge of science that adds two further interests to this “civic” motivation: “practical individual decisionmaking”; and “cultural curiosity” about science. In addition, they suggest that what is meant by “scientific knowledge” can cover three broad types of content: “scientific facts”; “processes and standards”; and “scientific institutions”. Combining these produces a three by three framework of “purposes and content” from which to begin to develop a more sophisticated assessment of public knowledge of science conceived in the general manner of “science in the service of citizens and consumers” (consumers, that is, of knowledge). Despite misgivings in some quarters as Toumey et al. record, the framework has been welcomed by the British Science Association and promises to make a significant advance over existing survey-based approaches, so we are very pleased to be able to present it here for wider European audiences. As the team also acknowledge, however, it remains restricted to assessing scientific “knowledge” and not “interpretations” of this knowledge, a distinction that is not necessarily clear-cut as some of our later chapters show. Nonetheless, one of the strengths of the framework is that it attempts to recognise the multiplicity of the public’s relationship to science and the diversity of sources of knowledge that selfdirected learners may employ. Moreover, in incorporating some measure of “institutional knowledge”, additional recognition is given to the social context within which scientific knowledge is generated and applied. In these respects, there is strong continuity with Bruce Lewenstein’s following chapter on “informal science education” (not altogether surprising, given his involvement with both reviews). Lewenstein summarises a report on Learning science in informal environments commissioned by the National Research Council of the United States National Academy of Sciences, but also uses this as an opportunity to reflect a little on what he suggests can be considered a “[natural] scientific” approach to PUS. The reason for this is because the report was subject to peer review, which brought out issues over different standards of evidence employed by natural scientists vis-à-vis social



scientists and humanities scholars; as Lewenstein neatly sums it: “‘data’ is not the plural of ‘anecdote’.” Consequently, much of the case study research found in science and technology studies–the sort of research, in fact, that makes up the bulk of this book–might be deemed of insufficient validity by the NRC, however persuasive social scholars of science may find it. Given that, from Lewenstein’s account, this includes much of the work on informal science learning (i.e., the sort of learning that occurs in contexts outside of formal education and related institutions), it can perhaps more readily be appreciated that natural scientists may be unwilling to count such learning as really “science”. On the other hand, we might also turn this around and view the resort to such methodological matters as a standard technique of boundary-work (Gieryn 1999), long recognised in science studies as an exclusionary tactic (Collins and Pinch 1979). Thus, in pointing out this issue, Lewenstein makes us aware that such defensive manoeuvres are available for deployment even in what he calls a “backstage” arena. Nonetheless, he ends on a hopeful note, concluding that it is important to sustain the conversation across the disciplinary boundaries and that the field of science and the public has great significance as a meeting place. Lewenstein highlights a number of features of the report itself, which identifies a range of “venues” of informal learning (such as museums) and “themes” that inform such venues (such as media), as well as offering a way of thinking about “learning” as a weaving together of six “strands” that are not restricted to formal educational contexts. Amongst these, he points especially to reflection on scientific institutions as a significant inclusion for the involvement of science and technology studies, using as an illustrative example the case of museums as both major cultural institutions and venues where “personal interaction” between visitors and staff can occur. These features significantly figure in the two chapters that follow.

Part Two: Public Venues of Knowledge In Parts Two and Three of the book, we move from general theoretical and conceptual discussions to specific examples of empirical research. Part Two includes studies of two major kinds of venue in which informal science is displayed and performed: museums and theatre. In chapter three, Claudia Geyer, Katrin Neubauer and Doris Lewalter report on their evaluation survey of visitors to a number of museums across Europe involved in the EU Commission funded NANOTOTOUCH project. The project aims to make the scientific laboratory directly

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accessible to the public by setting up nano-research facilities within museums and encouraging visitors to interact with the researchers. Geyer et al. focus on assessing the effectiveness of the project in terms of how well it succeeded in generating and sustaining visitors’ “situational interest” in nanotechnology and their self-perceived increase in knowledge about nanotechnology and research. Amongst the key findings is that the perceived relationship to the scientist is closely related to both these factors: the better the perceived relationship, the better the reported experience and learning. This supports Lewenstein’s point that museums are particularly well-positioned to take advantage of the personal interaction with staff scientists their venues afford. The other feature of museums Lewenstein picks out is their significance, not merely as venues for “knowledge transfer” narrowly defined, but also as national and cultural heritage sites with the potential to locate science and technology in wider social contexts. This is developed in chapter four, Ines Hülsmann and Ana-Maria Raus’s study of displays of the pacemaker. Drawing on actor-network theory and so providing a qualitative counterpart to Geyer et al.’s quantitative analysis, Hülsmann and Raus describe how pacemaker technology is represented in three different Dutch venues, a museum, a science centre, and a manufacturing company. Their descriptions clearly show how ostensibly the same “object” is quite differently configured in these different sites demonstrating that there is no simple “transfer” of knowledge, but a distinct “translation”, which in each case offers quite different relations to visiting publics. This is made all the more apparent by the fact that the science centre works directly with the manufacturing company and yet displays the technology in a significantly different way, to the point that one company interviewee expresses concern that the centre provides not “edutainment” but merely “entertainment” (evidently then, it is not just social scientists who worry about the “engagement” agenda, even if for rather different reasons). In a notable point of confluence with Geyer et al., Hülsmann and Raus also highlight the importance of the interaction between venue staff and visitors, and they echo Lewenstein in proposing that all the venues could do more to increase awareness of the social in science and technology. One venue where such awareness is being articulated, at least to some degree, is theatre and our next two chapters provide examples of two rather different approaches to accomplishing this, which despite contrasting starting points, show significant convergence towards similar outcomes. In chapter five, Jeff Teare provides a summary overview of the work to date of Theatrescience, a drama company that has become increasingly involved in developing and exploring ways of using drama to



address moral and ethical issues involving science. From the outset, Theatrescience’s work involved more than simply putting on plays; rather, with the support of bodies such as The Wellcome Trust and the Eden Project in the UK, they have explored ways in which to bring together drama writers and practitioners with scientists and publics in schools, at science centres and in wider communities. As part of this, they have sought to break down longstanding barriers between the arts and science and, in this respect, provide a practical example of the kind of interdisciplinary conversation afforded by the field of PUS. They have also worked internationally, notably in India and Africa, on developing dramatisations of health and related issues that involve direct input from affected communities and it is here especially that their work shows convergence with that of Aiding Dramatic Change in Development (ADCID). In chapter six, Stephen Sillett and Jennifer Jiminez provide an account of ADCID’s work involving Socio-Drama Topography (SDT). This is described as a “reflective and dialogical arts-based inquiry process” that seeks to use dramatic techniques developed with the active involvement of communities to air local issues with a view to encouraging reflection and greater empowerment for participants. The two applications of SDT outlined in the chapter are concerned with health and environmental issues in deprived areas of rural South Africa in which western scientific understandings are crucially positioned. In the first case concerning HIV/AIDS, from which the SDT approach was first developed, the project was concerned with improving young people’s adoption of safe-sex practices and involved learning from both the youth and their parents about traditional views of sexual relationships and their importance to identity. Drama was then used to facilitate community discussion and reflection with a view to developing knowledge and changing practices towards “healthy choices”. In the second case, focused on issues of water access and hygiene, SDT was employed from the outset to assist a community-based organisation seeking to change from a more technicallydriven mode of service provision towards greater community partnership. As Sillett and Jiminez put it, this “involved a shift in engagement from transferring knowledge and servicing needs to developing the ‘power to empower’.” In short, a shift from top-down to bottom-up and from formal, institutionally-directed knowledge to informal, locally-grounded knowledge. Thus, despite their rather different starting points, both Theatrescience and SDT have developed forms of drama-based intervention that attempt to encourage participatory involvement of local communities and to

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incorporate their knowledge(s) into the learning activity. There is about this a clear resonance with established critiques of the deficit model that also emphasise the importance of local knowledge(s), a matter that arises again, albeit in rather different fashion, in Part Three.

Part Three: Public Mediations of Knowledge In Part Three, we shift locus from what might once have been considered “high culture” venues to the mass media and popular culture, beginning with two chapters looking at science and scientists in newspapers and magazines. In chapter seven, Miquel Carandell provides a detailed analysis of the fascinating controversy in the Spanish press over a fossil bone fragment referred to as “Orce Man”, with respect to its classification as indeed a hominid or merely a donkey. The matter was controversial, because its acceptance as hominid presented a challenge to the prevailing view of when early humans arrived in Europe. Carandell uses the case to assess the applicability of a number of models of science popularisation and to highlight that newspapers may themselves become a site for establishing scientific knowledge (referred to as “medialisation”). In this way, the traditional sharp division between formal contexts of scientific knowledge production and the informal context of popularisation is called into question, as it is argued that for at least some members of the scientific community, newspaper reports provided the primary source of information regarding the nature and status of the fossil. Further, not all the scientists involved were distant from the controversy, but some closely involved. The case then provides reinforcement for the view that learning about science is something that can occur in a range of contexts, whether considered “formal” or “informal” and that this is not just true for nonscientists. Members of the scientific community may also rely on “informal” sources, troubling the distinction between scientists and the public and raising a question about how we should view these categories themselves. One proposal in response to this question comes from Simon Locke in chapter eight, in the form of a preliminary application of Membership Categorisation Analysis (MCA) to some treatments of academics and doctors in newspapers and magazines. MCA is a perspective associated with Harvey Sacks (better known for having founded conversation analysis), which over recent years has become increasingly widely used to study the ways in which categories are employed by people in everyday life to make sense of their own and others’ activities. Actions can be



matched to categories and categories to actions providing us with a ready interpretative apparatus to understand what is going on in a given situation. Arguing that category usage involves rhetorical reasoning conforming to the incomplete syllogism of the enthymeme, Locke provides illustration of how non-scientists writing in the mass media can use the attributes or “predicates” associated with the categories “academic” and “doctor” to construct critical accounts of science and scientists. In particular, he notes that academics may be judged “bad” in relation to a set of norms of a broadly Mertonian form that are often found in popularised representations of scientists. Thus, scientists are held publicly accountable to a moral order they have themselves worked to constitute in public. Similarly, from consideration of contemporary press reports of Jack the Ripper, Locke suggests that members of the public may draw on scientific knowledge to construct versions of “madness” to which scientists are then held accountable, even as actions attributed to the category of “scientist” are judged by the existing moral order, in particular acting instrumentally. Finally, Locke also gives some brief consideration to the additional category “local” to point out that the use of this common sense construct by social scientists as a resource with which to criticise the deficit model demonstrates our own reliance on ordinary social-rhetorical reasoning, further troubling any easy distinctions between scientists (natural or social) and the public, and between formal and informal knowledge. Such questions arise also in relation to fiction involving science in which, in a variety of ways, the boundary between “fact” and “fiction” becomes distinctly (and oxymoronically) fuzzy and our last two chapters carry this matter forward in two novel (pun intended!) directions. In chapter nine, Alice Bell looks at the classic British children’s character, Professor Branestawm, as an example of how images of the scientist may be informed by (modern western) cultural representations of the child. Bell points out that there are a variety of contrasting qualities associated with children, such as being innocent or corrupt, that may also be associated with scientists and enable positive or negative images of the latter to be constructed through the former. In the case of Branestawm, she suggests that a range of positive qualities of the child are combined with “antichildlike”, “mature” features that enable different versions of the character to be presented, which she tracks over the course of his 50 year history (from 1931-1983). She further suggests, however, that such negotiations of the “child/scientist boundary” are not just to be found in the fictional character, but also amongst “real world” scientists, “to take advantage of both positive qualities of childishness as well as the advantages of

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appearing distinctly ‘mature’.” Thus, through studying such fictional characters, we may learn not only much about the common sense attributions associated with scientists, but also perhaps, those with which scientists may seek to associate themselves. This then is one way in which the “informal” context of popular fiction may blur over into more “formal” scientific self-representations. Bell’s discussion points to the “ambivalence” with which scientists are represented in children’s literature, a matter that comes through also in our final chapter. Here, Kate Roach raises the intriguing question as to why the “scientific detective” has been largely excluded from discussions of fictional representations of the scientist, which tend to focus over-narrowly on “mad” scientist figures, themselves often viewed as one-dimensional critiques of the “evils” of science. Through detailed consideration of some of the most influential early detectives in 19th century popular fiction, she argues they were represented as “men of science”, but also incorporated “occult” qualities that, during the 20th century, became marginalised from formal science. Yet, in popular culture, such figures retain an important presence, most prominently in Dracula’s nemesis, Professor Van Helsing, both scientist and supernaturalist. Together with the more widely studied (in the PUS literature) mad scientist proto-type, Doctor Frankenstein, Van Helsing makes up something of a double-act that looms large over contemporary popular images of the scientist and from which a host of fictional progeny has spawned. Roach suggests that this supports the view that the public meaning of science remains mixed and uncertain, combining both enchanted and disenchanted qualities that are played out and explored through such images. Popular culture, then, is a site where the meaning of science is debated in part through such narratological resources and the implications of this for both “formal” and “informal” science education are much in need of further study. Taken overall, this is the message of the book: that the need remains to move the agenda of PUS beyond matters of deficit, engagement and transfer, all of which despite the differences in their packaging prioritise the position of formal institutional science as the primary source of knowledge production in our society. Our commitment, in contrast, is to a view of knowledge as something that pervades all parts of the social world, as a stock of sedimented typifications, discursive practices and artful accomplishments that underwrite and make possible all forms of social life including those we call the sciences. In the first instance, science grows from the everyday lifeworld (for which the term “public” is a certain kind of synonym) and though, as it feeds back into it the lifeworld may become transfigured, science is itself transmogrified in the



process. Such transformations, however strange and unusual they may seem and however “informal” their constitution, require empirical study and understanding more than anxious condemnation or self-interested redirection. Publics do things with science, they generate their own knowledges in accord with their own concerns and criteria, regardless of the needs and desires of any formal, institutional apparatus: get used to it.

References Birke, Linda. 1990. Selling science to the public. New Scientist, August 18: 40-44. Collins, Harry M., and Pinch, Trevor. 1979. The construction of the paranormal: nothing unscientific is happening. In On the margins of science: the social construction of rejected knowledge, ed. Roy Wallis, 237-270. Keele: Keele University Press. Evans, Geoffrey, and John Durant. 1989. Understanding of science in Britain and the USA. In British social attitudes: special international report, eds. Roger Jowell, Sharon Witherspoon and Lindsay Brook, 105-119. Aldershot: Gower. Gieryn, Thomas F. 1999. Cultural boundaries of science: credibility on the line. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Holton, Gerald. 1992. How to think about the “anti-science” phenomenon. Public Understanding of Science 1(1): 103-128. House of Lords. 2000. Science and society, report of the select committee on science and technology. London: HMSO. Irwin, Alan. 1995. Citizen science: a study of people, expertise and sustainable development. London: Routledge. Irwin, Alan, and Brian Wynne, eds. 1996. Misunderstanding science? The public reconstruction of science and technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lock, Simon J. 2008. Lost in translations: discourses, boundaries and legitimacy in the public understanding of science in the UK. PhD diss., University College London. Michael, Mike. 1996. Ignoring science: discourses of ignorance in the public understanding of science. In Misunderstanding science? The public reconstruction of science and technology, eds. Alan Irwin and Brian Wynne, 105-125. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Royal Society 1985. The public understanding of science. London: The Royal Society. Wynne, B. 1992. Public understanding of science research: new horizons or hall of mirrors? Public Understanding of Science 1(1): 37-43.

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ʊ. 2008. Elephants in the rooms where publics encounter “science”?: A response to Darrin Durant, “Accounting for expertise: Wynne and the autonomy of the lay public”. Public Understanding of Science 17(1): 21-33. Ziman, J. 1991. Public understanding of science. Science, Technology, & Human Values 16: 99-105.



Introduction The Science and engineering indicators (hereafter Indicators) is a massive compilation of data that is assembled by the staff of the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) and published biennially by the National Science Board (NSB). Chapter Seven of the Indicators is titled “Public attitudes and understanding”. When the 2010 edition was being prepared, some members of NSB criticised the item on public knowledge of evolution: “Human beings as we know them today developed from earlier species of animals”. This item, they asserted, failed to distinguish between knowledge of evolution and belief in evolution (Bhattacharjee 2010). A person could know that scientists say that humans have evolved, but still disagree with the scientists; in that case, which is sometimes detected in survey research, the interviewee knows how evolution is presented by scientists or the authors of textbooks, but at the same time he

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or she does not believe in evolution. In the view of some members of NSB, the wording of the item on evolution captured belief in evolution when it should have captured knowledge of evolution instead. After a series of communications were exchanged between NSB members and NSF staff, it was agreed that the conceptual framework for public knowledge of science, as reported in Chapter Seven of the Indicators, ought to be reexamined. A workshop at NSF was planned to reevaluate the conceptual framework in October 2010, with a follow-up workshop to devise methods to implement the recommendations of the first in November 2010. The authors of this paper participated in the first workshop, and some members also contributed to the second workshop. Here we describe the process of: (1) examining the former conceptual framework; (2) suggesting a different framework; (3) clarifying the implications of the second framework; (4) observing how the second framework was incorporated into documents of the National Science Board; and (5) observing how the second framework was reported in science media. The topic of public knowledge of science deserves a rich interdisciplinary approach. The participants for the workshop of October 2010 had expertise in science communication, science policy, science education, informal science education, survey design, learning-andcognition, science-and-culture, and other related areas. That way the group could look critically at public knowledge of science from multiple relevant perspectives.1

From Civic Scientific Literacy to “Science in the Service of Citizens and Consumers” Why should the National Science Foundation measure public knowledge of science, and why should the National Science Board publish this information? These were the initial questions that the workshop considered. The workshop participants noted that NSF and other governmental science agencies have a legitimate interest in knowing how the public examines scientific evidence, how the public reasons about evidence and how it uses evidence to make judgments either as individuals or as communities. In the words of NSF’s (2003) strategic plan, one of its objectives is to promote public understanding and appreciation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and build bridges between formal and informal science education.


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For purposes of conceptual clarity, the workshop participants used the term “public knowledge of science” for three reasons. First, there was concern that the expression “public understanding of science” has acquired a highly charged negative connotation in both the research and the policy communities as a result of criticism of projects conducted earlier under that title. This problem arose after the Royal Society presented its 1985 report, Public understanding of science, also known as the Bodmer report (Royal Society 1985). This document has been widely diagnosed as a plan in which scientists talk, members of the public listen and then the public uncritically supports government funding of scientific research. An opposition to that plan quickly crystallised, as represented in Brian Wynne’s (1992) paper, “Public understanding of scientific research”. There, the author asserted that the Bodmer report was motivated by scientists’ selfish fear of losing public support for science. In the words of Wynne (1992, 42), this reflected “the social neurosis of science over its authority and public legitimation”, in which the work of scientists is not vetted by the public. Wynne (1992, 37) writes that “problems in public understanding of science reflect problems in the representation, organisation and control–the broad political culture–of science”. This and other critiques have painted the Royal Society report as misguided and unrealistic. We note that Sir Walter Bodmer recently defended the report, saying that critiques have oversimplified its conclusions (Bodmer 2010). Second, the conceptual framework to be reevaluated, public knowledge of science, is often identified with the term “civic scientific literacy”. If hypothetically the workshop was to recommend a different conceptual framework, then the themes of the new framework would lead to a new terminology. Third, “understanding” can include both the scientific knowledge that the public possesses and the attitudes, values, concerns, perceptions and other factors that shape public interpretations of that knowledge. The workshop participants were charged to reevaluate the conceptual framework for public knowledge of science, but not the influences that shape interpretations of knowledge. Those other influences are interesting and important, but the problem at hand was public knowledge of science. Furthermore, a reevaluation should think about the future: how can a conceptual framework improve the process of measuring and reporting information for the 2014 Indicators and beyond? The first order of business of the workshop was to examine the history of measuring and reporting public knowledge of science. Dr Robert Bell of the Science Resources Statistics Division at NSF (subsequently renamed as the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics)

Rethinking Public Knowledge of Science


presented this history from an administrative perspective, after which the workshop participants discussed the contributions and conceptual framework of Dr Jon D. Miller, who established a framework known as civic scientific literacy (CSL) in 1983, with various revisions since then (Losh 2006). Miller’s framework was anchored in John Dewey’s theory of liberal democracy, particularly Dewey’s 1934 essay on “The supreme intellectual obligation” (Dewey 1981 [1934]; Miller 1983, 1987a, 2004). Here, Dewey argued that if citizens know how to think scientifically, then democracy will benefit from good knowledge combined with good decision-making processes. According to Miller’s (1983, 29) account, In a democratic society, the level of scientific literacy in the population has important implications for science policy decisions…any measures we can take to raise this level…will improve the quality of both our science and technology and our political life.

None of the workshop participants opposed civic scientific literacy per se. Nevertheless, they identified two reasons to develop an updated conceptual framework. One is that the former vision has not been attained. It is possible that higher levels of scientific thinking might or might not affect democracy for the better, but there is little reason to be optimistic that the American public will achieve the levels of scientific literacy that Dewey and Miller hoped for. The civic virtue that Dewey envisioned included individuals voting and making personal decisions. Some readers might further infer that Dewey also called for the kinds of large-scale political grassroots organising that are required to support or resist a particular science policy. Even so, telephone surveys have not captured that latter possible dimension of civic scientific literacy. It can be recognised that large-scale political activism is now a common feature of public scientific controversies in creation-evolution disputes, AIDS/HIV policy, environmental issues, and other topics. That level of activism on scientific topics proceeds with or without desirable levels of scientific literacy. A conceptual framework for public knowledge of science should reflect the reality that scientific knowledge is acquired and deployed, not only in voting in elections and referendums, but also in additional styles of civic engagement. The second reason for reevaluating the conceptual framework of civic scientific literacy is that this vision frames the person in the public as a micro-scientist. That is, it identifies some of the knowledge that working scientists possess and then measures how much of that knowledge nonscientists possess. Consistently the answer is that most of the public


Chapter One

possesses miniscule quantities of scientific knowledge, leading to stories with titles like “America’s scientific illiterates” (Russell 1986), “The dismal state of scientific literacy” (Culliton 1989), and “The scientifically illiterate” (Miller 1987b). The workshop did not challenge the validity of these reports. What should be the standard of acceptable civic scientific literacy? Sometimes it is said to be the ability to read the “Science” section in the Tuesday edition of the New York Times. Why? If a citizen accepts that scientific information passively or uncritically, is this an acceptable form of civic scientific literacy? The workshop participants agreed that decades of data collection from surveys of civic scientific literacy have enabled high-quality longitudinal research. Long-term trends can be identified and analysed. Likewise, comparative research is made possible. Public knowledge of science in the United States can be weighed against the same in other nations and perhaps insights can be derived from that kind of comparison. This kind of analysis is already made possible for K12 science education, e.g., in the Science framework of the 2009 national assessment of education progress (NAGB 2009). It would be regrettable if the longitudinal and comparative value of that information was diminished. Following that conclusion and with the benefit of the participants’ expertise in science communication, science policy, science education, informal science education, survey design, and other related topics, the workshop explored ways to improve the conceptual framework by incorporating recent thought about relations between the science and the public. One insight that was especially salient is that persons in the public have different reasons for acquiring scientific knowledge and using it (e.g., Bell et al. 2009; Shen 1975; Toumey 2006; Wickson et al. 2010). Sometimes a person is in the role of an information consumer and so wants the kind of practical knowledge that enables one to comprehend the ingredients in a food label, or to know how to take antibiotics without developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Other times a person is in a civic role and needs scientific knowledge in order to have an active and constructive role in a science policy decision-making process. If a nuclear reactor is planned near one’s home, what knowledge will a person need to weigh the benefits and the risks, and then to participate in supporting or opposing the construction of the reactor? In a third situation, a person might feel that science is interesting and learning about science is enjoyable. Unlike the reasons of the consumer or the citizen, this motive has merely the pleasure of learning about science. We can call this public

Rethinking Public Knowledge of Science


knowledge of science for its own sake and we can note that by acquiring it, people are connected to a shared view of how the natural world works. In addition to considering the reasons why people acquire scientific knowledge, it is worth realising that there are different kinds of knowledge and that some kinds will serve one purpose while others serve another. The consensus of the workshop was that there are three principal categories of scientific knowledge that can serve persons in the roles of information consumers, citizens, and the curious: 1. Factual scientific knowledge gives one a vocabulary of scientific information and scientific conclusions about the empirical world. For example: What is an atom? What is a species? What is a vitamin? What are genetically modified organisms? What are stem cells? In addition to knowledge that might be conveyed as definitions, it also includes natural and technical processes: What is adaptation, and how does it work? How does a solar cell work? How does a nuclear power plant work? 2. Knowledge of scientific processes and standards enables one to comprehend intellectual practices such as experimental design, naturalistic explanation, sampling and probability, and so on. 3. Institutional scientific knowledge enables one to know how scientific institutions operate. This includes peer review; the adjudication of scientific claims; the funding of scientific research; how science identifies and prioritises emerging issues; how scientific advice is used; processes of making science policy; and so on. From those considerations comes the core of a conceptual framework for measuring and reporting public knowledge of science in the Indicators: In order to place science in the service of citizens and information consumers, the concept of public knowledge of science refers to: (a) factual scientific knowledge; (b) knowledge of scientific processes and standards; and (c) knowledge of how scientific institutions operate. It equips persons in the public for: (1) active civic engagement in scientific issues, including organised efforts to support or oppose specific science policies; and for (2) using scientific knowledge for practical decisionmaking by individuals; and for (3) a better scientific understanding of the world.

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In addition, the process of measuring and reporting public knowledge of science continues the long-term responsibility of collecting data which enables high-quality longitudinal and comparative analysis. This conceptual framework can be envisioned as a three-by-three matrix. The horizontal dimension represents three purposes for acquiring knowledge, and the vertical dimension depicts three kinds of knowledge content. One can then categorise items to be measured according to which purpose they serve and what kind of content they represent (Table 1.1).

Factual knowledge Processes and standards Content Institutional knowledge

Purposes of public knowledge of science Civic Practical/ Cultural engagement individual curiosity with science decisionabout the making scientific worldview How should What is an antibiotic electron? medicines be used? How is Principle of probability naturalistic relevant to a explanation particular issue? Why does Which nanoexperts and technology institutions receive can I trust? government funding?

Table 1.1. A 3x3 matrix of Purposes and Content showing how certain kinds of knowledge fit into cells For example, the principle of naturalistic explanation would belong in the row for scientific processes and standards and the column for scientific understanding of the world. It would also go in the column for the civic purpose of public knowledge of science in the case of a policy controversy about evolution and creationism. But it is not necessarily urgent for it to be in the column for the practical purpose of serving consumers. One can imagine how a person who wants to understand the label of ingredients on

Rethinking Public Knowledge of Science


a food package does not particularly need to invoke the standard of naturalistic explanation. It is noted that some items to be measured can go in more than one column and more than one row. This matrix can be further understood by focusing on one particular theme. In this case, we place nine kinds of knowledge about medications into the matrix (Table 2.2).

Factual knowledge

Processes and standards Content

Institutional knowledge

Purposes of public knowledge of science Civic Practical/ Cultural engagement individual curiosity with science decisionabout the making scientific worldview Who funds What are the How do research on risks of drugs work? Drug X? Drug X for me and my family? What Have How do standards are financial scientists used to interests develop affected drugs? evaluate Drug X? safety testing of Drug X? How can How can I What is the non-experts evaluate social affect conflicting history of research and reports research on regulation of about Drug Drug X? Drug X? X?

Table 1.2. A matrix of Purposes and Content focusing on questions about medications The starting point of this conceptual framework is to ask what knowledge a person in the public needs, whether for civic engagement with science and science policy, or for making individual decisions about one’s life or health, or for feeding one’s curiosity about science. This starting point is different from that which informed the previous conceptual framework, when the principal effect was to measure civic


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scientific literacy as a proportion of scientific knowledge in general (and how little the public knows). The revised framework entails a series of consequences for how we think about relations between the public and scientific knowledge. The workshop participants noted that this was not the original intent of the framework of civic scientific literacy, which had a complex definition of scientific literacy that included both science process and science policy (Miller 1983). In practice, however, that framework was largely understood as focusing on the science content dimension. The revised framework, “Science in the service of citizens and consumers” (SSCC), entails a series of consequences for how we think about relations between the public and scientific knowledge.

A Conceptual Framework Based on Citizens’ Needs The public is not a homogeneous entity. There are various levels of formal education and multiple levels of encountering science through informal science education. Topics of interest will differ. Some people will be interested in nuclear power; others will concentrate on one disease or another; still others will be curious about the ethics of embryonic stem cell research; or what they need to know for a career in environmental management; and so on. Furthermore, some people will care about a given issue more than others. The first responsibility of those who disseminate public knowledge of science is to serve the segments of the public that want this knowledge. This takes precedence over an aspiration to deliver public knowledge of science to everyone equally, including those persons who do not particularly care about scientific knowledge. Thus public knowledge of science is largely topical according to this framework. This can be contrasted with universal or timeless scientific principles. Topical knowledge does not arise from the same needs as the content in a science course or a science textbook. On the contrary, it arises when a citizen or a consumer is curious, concerned, alarmed, or excited about a particular topic. A resident of the Louisiana coast may want to know how the residue of the oil spill in 2010 can be made to disperse. The molecular structure of hydrocarbons is relevant at one level, but the resident probably does not want a tutorial on that. Instead, he or she wants to know which products will work, how quickly they will work and whether they will harm the coast. Related to the topical character of public knowledge of science is the point that non-scientists can often acquire, comprehend and employ the relevant scientific knowledge when they have to. Self-motivated learning by adults has an impact almost as strong as formal undergraduate science

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courses (Miller 2004, 289-290). It is not expected that, during a controversy or a crisis, persons in the public will aspire to acquire knowledge equivalent to a degree in a scientific discipline. But these citizens do not need to become scientists with formal degrees in order to know what they need to know to have active and constructive roles in public debates that include a scientific dimension. This reinforces the insight that the starting point for public knowledge of science is the need of the citizen or the information consumer, rather than a microcosm of what a scientist knows. Consistent with this perspective, the workshop participants also recommended that periodically a topic of special concern in the United States, e.g., genetically modified crops, be featured in the Indicators, with a series of questions to gauge public knowledge of the subject. Next, it is no secret that persons in the public, like persons in scientific communities, seek scientific knowledge from multiple sources. It is known from the 2012 Indicators that television and the internet are the two principal sources of scientific information for the American public, in equal proportions. Access to knowledge is not limited to a small number of authorities. When persons in the public acquire scientific knowledge from institutions and persons that are considered authoritative by the standards of scientific communities, those institutions and individuals are communicating in a very competitive marketplace where other sources claim to be equally authoritative. The workshop participants understood that the new conceptual framework overlapped with civic scientific literacy in the data collection it recommended, but it would also be more encompassing than that earlier framework. By updating the framework to account for research and critiques generated in the last twenty-five years, the participants sought to retain the value of data collected under the framework developed by Jon D. Miller, while providing a more robust structure with new perspectives on public interactions with science. The new framework makes explicit some assumptions that were earlier implicit and it changes some of the emphases. By re-reading Miller’s work on civic scientific literacy over the past thirty years, one could find parts of the new conceptual framework prefigured there. The fundamental goal of collecting data on public knowledge of science, namely to serve government policy making, remains the same. In addition to specifying these implications, the workshop of October 2010 made a series of recommendations about collecting data on public knowledge of science for the Indicators. These can be found in the


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workshop report, “Science in the service of citizens and consumers” (Toumey et al. 2010).

Measurement and Operationalisation of the SSCC Framework Issues of measurement and item validity have not gone unattended in this fertile field of social science inquiry. And yet the renewed controversy over validity of the items used in the NSF surveys called for a careful examination of the quality and utility of the full set of public science knowledge items drawing on recent advances in survey methodology. The second workshop, on implementing the recommendations of the first (Guterbock et al. 2011), examined the measurement adequacy of the current NSF survey items themselves taking into account the newly defined SSCC conceptual framework. The workshop, convened by Thomas Guterbock on 12 November 2010, brought together a group of survey methodologists and substantive experts for the purpose of developing a set of specifications to identify the measurement qualities that would be desirable in the public science knowledge questions and to outline a protocol for creating additional questions and testing them. The workshop participants represented a wide range of expertise from the disciplines of sociology, communication, psychology, political science, and health policy, plus survey researchers and methodologists. Considerable scientific attention has already been paid to the assessment of the measurement properties of the existing science knowledge items used for the Indicators. This existing instrumentation assessment work is of high quality and was of considerable value to the evaluation task. Nevertheless, the workshop found that further study of some of the survey items is warranted and some new items will need to be developed if adequate measurement of the new framework is to be achieved. Since the SSCC framework is broader in scope than its predecessor, the current NSF survey items do not measure all its aspects. Both factual and process items are well covered by the items in current use by NSF. However, it was noted that no relevant questions exist in the category of institutional scientific knowledge. Examples of this type of knowledge might be items asking about the federal government’s role in funding basic research, the role of universities, differences in credibility of independently funded research versus that funded by for-profits, and so on. Another topic of institutional scientific knowledge was the question of human subjects in research. While funding agencies typically have clear

Rethinking Public Knowledge of Science


parameters for protecting human subjects, this may be unknown to nonexperts. It would be valuable to know whether this form of institutional knowledge can be detected and measured in survey research. A key aspect of the SSCC framework is the recognition that citizens use scientific knowledge for three different sets of purposes as was indicated in the three columns of the matrix shown above. As the workshop reviewed the existing survey items it became evident that they do not attempt to measure these purposes directly. The second workshop found that it would be relatively easy to develop new items that would directly measure whether a person deploys scientific knowledge in everyday life. For example, items could probe whether the respondent regularly consults scientific or technical sources or published data in making important consumer purchases. Other items could measure whether the respondent holds opinions on policy issues where science is relevant and whether she or he relies on science knowledge in forming such opinions. A third set of items could focus simply on the extent to which a person enjoys hearing or reading about scientific studies, or learning about science. Three distinct “science-purpose” scales could be constructed from these items. Armed with these scales, researchers could then put to empirical test the assumptions that underlie the SSCC framework, i.e., that science knowledge actually does empower citizens or improve their lives by making them more able consumers, more effective citizens, or better able to comprehend the world. Although the instrumentation workshop had the task of reviewing the public science knowledge questions as a whole, the workshop participants devoted some attention to the two items that had drawn criticism from the NSB when the 2010 Indicators was being prepared: the true/false questions regarding evolution of humans from lower forms of life; and the origin of the universe in the Big Bang. While these questions are stated as simple factual propositions without any direct religious content, it is clear that some respondents respond to the items based on religious belief systems to which they are committed. In particular, conservative Christians who hold the Bible to be inerrant would be reluctant to endorse these items as being “true”. The continued strength of conservative Christianity in the United States would then explain the lower scores on these items compared with other developed countries. That presents an interesting problem. The evolution and Big Bang questions are different from the other knowledge items, but they also correlate fairly well with the other general-knowledge items. And so they function in part as measures of science knowledge, but they are also


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clearly picking up another dimension which may be personal commitment to religious belief. To derive the greatest analytical value from these items it would help to measure these two topics in terms of both knowledge and belief. It was the strong consensus of the workshop participants that the notion of evolution is too fundamental and broad-reaching a concept in science to be left out of the set of public science knowledge indicators. Based on prior experiments conducted for NSF on variations of these items, the workshop suggested that they be modified into an “unfolding” or contingent form. Respondents would first be asked if the item were true “according to evolutionary theory” or “according to astronomers”. They would then be asked directly if they personally share each belief. That approach would have the virtue of clearly separating a respondent’s knowledge about what scientists believe from his or her personal beliefs. The NSF public science knowledge items should be clearly focused on scientific knowledge. A change in measurement of the concept will not in itself resolve the debate over whether personal belief in human evolution is an essential part of scientific knowledge, or more generally whether science literacy necessarily assumes acceptance of scientific consensus as opposed to mere knowledge of that consensus. The suggested unfolding version of the questions will provide researchers with information that more clearly separates a respondent’s knowledge of scientists’ views from his or her personal agreement with those views, thus allowing for a more informed investigation of both aspects of public knowledge of science. Looking to the research agenda ahead, the November 2010 workshop expressed concern that some of the current NSF survey items have been developed for use only in face-to-face interviews (although older items were developed for oral administration via telephone). The workshop recommended that a telephone-friendly version of current and proposed new items be developed, so as to allow more frequent and widespread testing of items by researchers who wish to expand, explore and validate the SSCC approach. The current survey vehicle for the NSF items is the General Social Survey (GSS): a biennial, NSF-funded, face-to-face survey known for the quality of its probability-based, large national sample. If research in this area is to develop at the needed pace, it will be necessary to collect a great deal of new data. A telephone version of the items would facilitate more rapid, more frequent and affordable data collection by multiple research teams to supplement and inform continued data collection via the GSS. If the current measures are to be improved and the SSCC framework is to realise its full potential, there is thus much methodological work–

Rethinking Public Knowledge of Science


qualitative, quantitative, and experimental–that will need to be completed in the next few years. The second workshop provided NSF with a number of action and research recommendations, including a call for additional funding for research on public attitudes toward science.

SSCC in the Considerations of the National Science Board The products of the two workshops were presented in a pair of reports in November 2010 (Toumey et al. 2010) and January 2011 (Guterbock et al. 2011). The first report was disseminated for the benefit of the November 2010 workshop, organised and chaired by Thomas Guterbock. Subsequently, Dr Myron Gutmann of NSF presented an oral summary to the National Science Board at its meeting of December 2010 and then he presented a written summary to NSB at its February 2011 meeting. The written report was later incorporated into the minutes of NSB’s May 2011 meeting as an Appendix. In a one-page article in Science in July 2011 (Bhattacharjee 2011), the Chair of the NSB subcommittee for the Indicators affirmed that NSB is “revamping the survey” of public knowledge of science in accordance with the two workshop reports. The 2012 Indicators included a sidebar in Chapter Seven, which alerted the reader to the work of the two workshops in 2010, along with changes that will become manifest in the 2014 Indicators (NSB 2012). Together these developments indicate that the two workshop reports are being institutionalised for the benefit of future editions of the Indicators.

SSCC in Science Media Another series of developments occurred in other venues. Chris Toumey had a two-page synopsis of the SSCC report published as a commentary in Nature Nanotechnology in January 2011 (Toumey 2011). Toumey and graduate research assistant Colin Townsend also disseminated the workshop results in presentations at the Society for Applied Anthropology (Seattle WA, April 2011), the Conference on Science and the Public (Kingston upon Thames UK, July 2011), and at North Carolina State University (Raleigh NC, January 2012). The article in Science from 22 July 2011 (Bhattacharjee 2011) contained three statements that Toumey and Guterbock considered misleading, namely: (1) a statement that the SSCC report intended to “downplay” measures of public knowledge of evolution; (2) an accusation that the members of the National Science Board had been acting from religious motivations when they called for a re-examination of the


Chapter One

conceptual framework for public knowledge of science; and (3) that changes were recommended because Americans were not scoring high enough on measures of civic scientific literacy. In response, Toumey and Guterbock wrote a letter which appeared in Science on 7 October 2011 (Toumey and Guterbock 2011). Their letter refuted each of those three misleading statements from the July article. On the first point, the authors quoted from the first workshop report: The workshop participants strongly feel that the NSB, the NSF, and the Indicators cannot retreat from controversies about important scientific concepts. Evolution is a cornerstone of Biology. Measures and reports of public knowledge of science in the Indicators and elsewhere need to explore knowledge of evolution.

Their letter added that the SSCC report recommended expanding measures of knowledge of evolution by including adaptation, natural selection and speciation; also, the topic of evolution should not be limited to human evolution. The evolution of plants is germane to questions of genetically modified organisms, for example, and microbial evolution is relevant to our use of antibiotics and vaccines.

In summary, “These recommendations do not downplay evolution, as Miller suggests. Just the opposite–they enhance and expand measures of public knowledge of evolution”. Regarding the second and third statements, Toumey and Guterbock (2011) countered that “We see no evidence that the NSB members were motivated by religious reasons”, and, “There is no truth to the allegation that we and our colleagues made those recommendations ‘because Americans are not scoring high enough’.” Finally, the report of the October 2010 workshop received a very kind appreciation in the magazine of the British Science Association. Under the title “Knowledge should be of practical value”, Anjana Ahuja (2011, 29) noted that “the concept of scientific literacy is changing–and…it desperately needs to change”. Ahuja paraphrased the workshop report with these words: Instead of measuring how much scientific knowledge nonscientists can muster, and then lamenting the paucity, why not reframe scientific literacy in terms of a need-to-know basis instead of an ought-to-know basis?

Rethinking Public Knowledge of Science


The SSCC framework, wrote Ahuja, will “allow people to dig deep into the science that affects their lives”. The result, she said, will be that people will make better use of science in their lives: more parents will vaccinate their children; more people will take their entire course of antibiotics; more people will understand an allegation that light bulbs cause cancer; and so on. Ahuja’s article was unexpected praise of the workshop report, and the participants could not have asked for a more favourable endorsement.

Conclusion For the process of measuring and reporting public knowledge of science, the revised conceptual framework described here has a clear and distinct starting point: what kinds of scientific knowledge do people in the public need for purposes of civic engagement with science and science policy, and for purposes of making individual decisions about one’s life and one’s health, and for purposes of feeding a person’s curiosity about science? Furthermore, the revised framework reveals a series of insights about relations between the public and scientific knowledge: the public is far from homogeneous in its relation to scientific knowledge; public knowledge of science tends to be topical rather than nomothetic; and many persons in the public have a considerable ability to acquire, comprehend and employ scientific knowledge when they need to even if this ability is often underestimated. The transition from “civic scientific literacy” to “science in the service of citizens and consumers” has a certain value: the audience for the two workshop reports is not a small community of academics unattached from the importance of public knowledge of science. On the contrary, the audience comprises three constituencies: (a) the staff of the National Science Foundation, who are charged with measuring public knowledge of science for the Indicators; (b) the members of the National Science Board, who are ultimately responsible for the content of the Indicators; and (c) policy makers, researchers and others, who use the Indicators as a trustworthy reference work. And so this framework for putting science in the service of citizens and consumers reflects the ways that non-scientists acquire scientific knowledge and make use of it. This reorientation will shape Chapter Seven of the Indicators. If indeed policy makers use the Indicators when they think about science, then this new conceptual framework can bring new information and new purposes to discourses about a profoundly


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important topic: whom does scientific knowledge serve, and how does it serve them?

Notes 1. Participants in the October 2010 Workshop on Public Knowledge of Science (with field of expertise), included: John Besley, University of South Carolina (science communication); Meg Blanchard, North Carolina State University (science education); Mark B. Brown, California State University–Sacramento (science policy); Michael Cobb, North Carolina State University (science policy and survey research); Elaine Howard Ecklund, Rice University (science and culture; religion and science); Margaret Glass, Association of Science & Technology Centers (informal science education); Thomas Guterbock, University of Virginia (survey research methods); A. Eamonn Kelly, George Mason University (learning and cognition); Bruce Lewenstein, Cornell University (science communication); Chris Toumey (organiser and chair of the workshop), University of South Carolina (anthropology of science, especially public scientific controversies). Participants in the November 2010 workshop on implementing the recommendations of the first workshop, included: Nick Allum, University of Sussex (survey methods, public understanding of science); John Besley, University of South Carolina (science communication); Frederick Conrad, University of Michigan (survey methods); Allyson Holbrook, University of Illinois at Chicago (survey methods); Scott Keeter, Pew Research Center (survey methods); Susan Losh, Florida State University (Educational Psychology and Learning); Jeff Mondak, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (political science); Bryce Reeve, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (psychometrics, quantitative psychology); David Sikkink, University of Notre Dame (sociology of religion) ; Sally Stares, London School of Economics (social measurement, public perception of science); Roger Tourangeau, University of Michigan and University of Maryland (survey methods); Chris Toumey, University of South Carolina (anthropology of science); Tom Guterbock (organiser and moderator), University of Virginia (survey methods). In addition, the two workshops benefited greatly from the services of graduate research assistants Debbie Rexrode (University of Virginia) and Colin Townsend (University of South Carolina).

References Ahuja, A. 2011. Knowledge should be of practical value. People & Science, September 2011: 29. Bell, P., B.V. Lewenstein, A. Shouse and M. Feder, eds. 2009. Learning science in informal environments: people, places, and pursuits. Washington DC: National Academies Press. Bhattacharjee, Y. 2010. NSF Board draws flak for dropping evolution from Indicators. Science, April 9: 150-151.

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Bhattacharjee, Y. 2011. New NSF survey tries to separate knowledge and belief. Science, July 22: 394. Bodmer, W. 2010. The BA, the Royal Society and COPUS. Notes and Records of the Royal Society 64(Supp. 1): S151-S161. Culliton, B. 1989. The dismal state of scientific literacy. Science, February 3: 600. Dewey, J. 1981 [1934]. The supreme intellectual obligation. In John Dewey: the later works volume 9, ed. J.A. Boydston, A. Sharpe and P. Baysinger, 96-101. Carbondale IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Guterbock, T., N. Allum, J. Besley, F. Conrad, A. Holbrook, S. Keeter, S. Losh, J. Mondack, B. Reeve, D. Rexrode, D. Sikkink, S. Stares, C. Toumey and R. Tourangeau. 2011. Measurement and operationalization of the “Science in the service of citizens and consumers” framework. Report to the US National Science Foundation. Losh, S. 2006. National Science Foundation surveys of public understanding of science and technology, 1979-2006. overview. Miller, J.D. 1983. Scientific literacy: a conceptual and empirical review. Daedalus 112(2): 29-48. —. 1987a. The scientifically illiterate. American Demographics, June: 2631. —. 1987b. Scientific literacy in the United States. In Communicating science to the public, ed. D. Evered and M. O’Connor, 19-37. NY: John Wiley & Sons. —. 2004. Public understanding of, and attitudes toward, scientific research. Public Understanding of Science 13: 273-294. NAGB (National Assessment Governing Board, United States Department of Education) 2009. Science framework for the 2009 national assessment of educational progress. Washington DC: U.S. Dept. of Education. NSB (National Science Board) 2012. Science and engineering indicators 2012. Washington DC: National Science Board. NSF (National Science Foundation) 2003. National Science Foundation strategic plan, FY 2003-2008. Arlington VA: National Science Foundation. Royal Society 1985. The public understanding of science. London: The Royal Society.


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Russell, C. 1986. America’s scientific illiterates. Washington Post, June 2: 1A. Shen, B. 1975. Science literacy and the public understanding of science. In Communication of scientific information, ed. S.B. Day, 44-52. Basel: Karger. Toumey, C. 2011. Science in the service of citizens and consumers. Nature Nanotechnology 6(1): 3-4. —. 2006. National discourses on democratizing nanotechnology. Quaderni 61: 81-101. Toumey, C. and T. Guterbock. 2011. Justifiable changes to Indicators survey. Science, October 7: 38-39. Toumey, C., J. Besley, M. Blanchard, M. Brown, M. Cobb, E.H. Ecklund, M. Glass, T.M. Guterbock, A.E. Kelly and B. Lewenstein. 2010. Science in the service of citizens and consumers. Report to the US National Science Foundation. Wickson, F., A. Delgado and K. Kjolberg. 2010. Who or what is “the public”? Nature Nanotechnology 5(11): 757-758. Wynne, B. 1992. Public understanding of science research: new horizons or hall of mirrors? Public Understanding of Science 1: 37-43.


Introduction One approach in the “public understanding of science” community carries the label “informal science education” (ISE). For example, the United States National Science Foundation’s (NSF) funding stream for popular science productions was called until 2012, the “Informal Science Education Program” (now called “Advances in Informal STEM Learning”). ISE focuses on “learning outcomes” for individuals, schools, families, and society. The evidence base that describes informal science, its promise and its effects is informed by a range of disciplines and perspectives, including field-based research, visitor studies, and psychological and anthropological studies of learning. Less influential in the field have been historical or sociological studies of the relationship of science and society. A 2009 report from the United States National Research Council (NRC) addresses the question of what people actually learn in informal science environments. Because the NRC is the operating branch of the United States National Academy of Sciences1, its reports must pass a peer review process deeply influenced by the natural sciences and indeed often populated with natural scientists. Thus the report, Learning science in informal environments (henceforth, LSIE), might be considered a “scientific” approach to public understanding of science. Although I am a historian of science with a particular interest in public understanding of science–definitely not a scientist or specialist in “learning”–I was somehow deemed sufficiently knowledgeable about relevant issues to be co-chair of the committee that produced the report. In this paper, I will


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summarise the report, but also call attention to aspects of the report where the social study of science allows us to reflect on what constitutes a “scientific” approach to public understanding of science. We might consider this a form of anthropological study, one revealing “backstage” aspects of the institutional contexts for science in public (Hilgartner 2000).

The “Learning Science in Informal Environments” Report The NRC regularly produces “consensus reports,” which summarise the state of knowledge in particular domains. Although it has frequently addressed formal education, only in 2009, after a four-year process of meetings and consultations, did it release a report on out-of-school learning: Learning science in informal environments: people, places, and pursuits (Bell et al. 2009).2 The report was funded by the United States National Science Foundation, which was seeking ways to better target its funding in the area of informal science education. It was a consensus study, which means it was both guided and constrained by the questions: What is the evidence for the findings? To what extent are statements in the literature hypotheses or proposed theory versus conclusions for which the evidence is clear? The NRC’s consensus study process draws on a diverse group of researchers to produce an extended literature review. The reports themselves endure a multi-stage peer review process before they receive the NRC imprimatur.3 The committee discussions are full of debates: What do we know? What do we not know? From the participant-observer position, I can also say that the consensus process means that the report is a committee-written document, with all the strengths and weaknesses of that genre. It is an extremely valuable report, but there are also aspects of it that may not accord with the findings and traditions of some research communities. It may not meet the needs or interests of specific groups, or may not go as far as some researchers might be willing to push. The LSIE study builds on two earlier NRC studies, which looked primarily at schools (that is, formal education) and learning. These reports were on How people learn (Bransford et al. 2000) and Taking science to school (Duschl et al. 2007). The new report had the goal of tying together and complementing some of the earlier research in the formal education realm and extending it to the informal education community. The 2000 report on How people learn was especially influential in the “learning sciences” community (Sawyer 2006). The new report, by focusing outside the formal schooling system, was sometimes facetiously called “How people also learn”. More importantly, within the ISE community there was

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some pressure to raise the profile of out-of-school learning, to make an argument for why more resources in the field would be valuable. While the immediate impetus for and clear origins of the LSIE report came from the learning sciences community, those of us in the science studies community are aware of many other relevant research traditions. Quantitative studies of “science literacy” began at least as early as the 1950s, with significant public and private investment in various kinds of public understanding, outreach and science popularisation activities since that time (Lewenstein 1994). Although the history of science museums extends back centuries, modern “hands-on” science centres emerged in the 1960s; all kinds of museums reflect the creative tensions among scientific research, science education and entertainment (Lewenstein and AllisonBunnell 2000; Rader and Cain 2008; Rieppel 2012). The Royal Society’s (1985) Public understanding of science report (informally, the Bodmer report) led to a flourishing of research on many aspects of science and public (Irwin and Wynne 1996; Ziman 1991). Today, the field is full of journals, conferences, special issues and intellectual ferment.4 Among the complexities generated by this ferment is a wide range of labels: “learning science in informal environments”, “science communication”, “informal science education”, “public understanding of science”, “public engagement in science”, “public communication of science”, “public learning and understanding of science”, “popularisation”, “popular science”, “vulgarisation”, “divulgacíon”, etc. A challenge implicitly (but not explicitly) faced by the committee was to locate its work with respect to these labels. Another point to notice is the funding: the NSF’s ISE programme. At the time, that programme was led by Dr David Ucko. Trained as a chemist, Ucko had been a member of the science museum world for many years, with a reputation as a creative institutional leader. He had spent a brief time at the National Academies helping plan the new Koshland Science Museum. At the National Science Foundation, he was shifting the ISE programme from one that primarily funded production to one with more emphasis on evaluation and on production of knowledge–a term I use deliberately for its resonance with other areas of science studies–about the effects of ISE activities. The committee that produced the report had fourteen members drawn from a wide range of areas. Some focused on research and evaluation of science learning in informal environments, while others were curriculum experts. The committee had several cognitive and developmental psychologists, as well as working natural scientists. Others on the committee were interested in media issues and in after-school and out-of-


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school issues. Out of fourteen people, eight had extensive experience in museum settings. In addition to the members, the committee had support from NRC staff members with expertise in educational research. As historians and sociologists, we are attuned to the personal and institutional dynamics that produce communal documents. Notice what is missing from the previous paragraph: the committee included no experts on history of science (except for my own limited expertise–I was primarily on the committee for my knowledge of science and media issues), art, politics, or community organising. Indeed, we had only a single member whose primary affiliation was in the natural sciences and even she was also affiliated with an environmental outreach centre. The committee’s charge emerged from a formal planning meeting in 2005, followed by negotiations between NSF and NRC, and included the committee’s own reflections at its first meeting. The final charge was to identify what theoretical perspectives have relevance for understanding learning in informal environments and to collate evidence for learning; then to use that evidence to understand what the features are of effective environments and what commitments are shared between the formal and informal education communities. The charge’s questions were: 1. What is the range of theoretical perspectives, assumptions and outcomes that characterise research on informal science? What assumptions, epistemologies, or modes of learning science are shared between the formal and informal science education environments? 2. How do informal science understanding and practice vary in diverse communities? 3. What evidence is there that people who participate in informal science activities learn concepts, ways of thinking, practices, attitudes and aesthetic appreciation in these settings? What kinds of informal learning environments best support the learning of current scientific issues and concerns (e.g., global warming)? What are the organisational, social, and affective features of effective informal science learning environments vis-à-vis a range of learned competencies/outcomes? 4. Are some learning outcomes unique to informal environments? For example, is there evidence that informal learning environments

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support the learning of populations who have been poorly served by school science? 5. What is known about the cumulative effects of science learning across time and contexts? How do learners (young, middle-aged, adolescent, older adults) utilise informal science learning opportunities? How do these opportunities influence learners? Are informal learning experiences designed to suit the developmental trajectories of individuals? 6. What information is needed by practitioners in the field? What information is needed by academics seeking to build and enlarge relevant areas of advanced or graduate study? What information is needed by policy makers to affect policies that include informal environments within the scope of education-directed legislation? 7. What are promising directions for future research? Can common frameworks that link the diverse literatures be developed? If so, what would they look like? I want to call particular attention to the tension between aspects of the first question (“What assumptions, epistemologies, or modes of learning science are shared between the formal and informal science education environments?”) and the fourth question (“Are some learning outcomes unique to informal environments?”). As noted above, though the LSIE study was an extension of prior work on learning, it was also taking place in an environment of constrained resources for all kinds of education. Some of its supporters hoped that one outcome of the study would be pressure to allocate more resources to informal science education. In the ideal world, such resources might be in addition to resources committed to formal education, but in the real world of political constraints and limited funding, the possibility for conflict between the formal and informal institutional worlds was clear. I cannot overemphasise the degree to which everything in the report depended on finding valid, reliable evidence based in solid research. As the aphorism says, “data” is not the plural of “anecdote”. We needed to find systematic, preferably peer-reviewed, research on which to base our findings. However, this is problematic in the case of informal science education. Much of the evidence about learning from media stories, exhibits, zoo visits, etc., appears in the grey literature, in evaluation reports and newsletter commentaries, and the like. While the ISE


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practitioner community is confident building on information in the grey literature, the “evidence-based” approach of NRC reports required a different standard. The committee worked hard to understand when the available evidence did constitute data, not anecdote, so that we would not lose the value that so much of the grey literature represents. Even when studies appeared in peer-reviewed literature in science studies, it sometimes struggled to meet the standards that would be used by the natural scientists who would be reviewing the committee’s work. Much of the work of science studies’ scholars on issues of science and the public consists of historical cases or particular sites of inquiry; the committee had to be clear when and how it could generalise from these works to the level of “consensus” required by NRC reports. Most of us were sympathetic to the case study approach, but the consensus concerns sometimes restricted our ability to make strong claims on some issues. Ultimately, the report drew on more than 1200 publications, coming from many distinct bodies of scholarly literature. In retrospect, we can see that the literature was biased toward publications from the United States, missed some areas (such as reports on media learning that were appearing just as the committee did its work), tried to include the grey literature, and struggled with questions about the stability of preprints, open-access publishing, web-based institutional reports, and so on. For those of us who study the production of reliable knowledge about the natural world, serving on such a committee is a reminder of the difficulty of establishing any claim to universal knowledge. The committee commissioned a number of subsidiary reports drawing on the detailed knowledge of others outside the committee. These reports covered areas such as indigenous knowledge, assessment, after-school programmes, and the like. The reports are accessible from the committee’s website, as are presentations and materials from the public meetings of the committee. The entire report (both in summary and complete forms) can be downloaded for free from the National Academies Press website, a feature now true of all NRC reports.5 The report itself began with broad summaries of theory (especially an ecological perspective on learning) and of the state of assessment. A significant segment of the report identified three “venues” in which learning about science takes place: Everyday learning. People learn while participating in the activities of daily life, such as hobbies, or family walks, or interacting with family while planning meals and other activities, or meeting with friends, or…. The list, of course, is endless.

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Designed environments. Some sites are specifically designed to produce or enhance learning. This venue includes science museums, zoos, nature centres, visitor centres–the kinds of sites of special interest to the readers of this paper. Programmes. In addition to physical sites designed for learning, much planned learning takes place through formal programmes that are not part of the formal school system. These include after-school programmes for school-age children, adult learning and continuing education programmes available in many communities on a wide range of topics, programmes designed for residents of retirement communities or nursing homes, field trips programmes for adults (such as the Elderhostel system), and so on. The report also addresses two “cross-cutting themes” that appeared in all venues: Media. Science learning takes place through science shows on televisions, newspaper and magazine articles, science fiction, cyberspace (ranging from the online versions of traditional media through blogs and Twitter feeds), and through electronic games both online and on handheld devices. Many designed environments have media components, such as media interactives on museum floors. Many after-school programmes use media as diversions (for example, on rainy days), and sometimes use programmes or activities delivered through media. Diversity. Across all venues, issues of diversity affect learning. These include: issues of access that differ across social and economic classes, and across geography (urban vs. rural, for example); issues of intellectual paradigm that vary across communities (such as the differences between indigenous or native groups and the western European and American residents who colonised much of the world, or the differences between modern medicine, folklore, and other medical systems such as acupuncture); and issues of historical relationships with science governed by racial, ethnic, or language differences. Finally, the report included conclusions and recommendations organised according to learners and learning; informal environments; promoting learning; relationship between informal environments and formal schools; and the development of a common field of research and practice across the informal environment domains. As with any report


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generated by academic researchers, the report finished with a call for more research. One of the guiding themes of the report is “life-long and life-wide learning”.6 Formal schooling fills only a small part of the time of our lives and learning takes place not just in school. If one considers the amount of time one spends out of school even during the school years, but then especially afterwards, during a Biblical three-score and ten lifespan, one realises how much space there is for learning throughout life (life-long), as well as across the day (life-wide). A key element of the report was its focus beyond the school system and beyond children. It looked at how adults learn in informal environments, such as when groups of adults stop to discuss a single exhibit on a museum floor, or when individuals alone examine particular exhibits in great detail.

Six Strands of Learning The centrepiece of the report is an expanded definition of “learning”. The definition is intended to move beyond a general statement, to look at different dimensions of learning. The report identifies six “strands” of learning (Bell et al. 2009, 41-47). The “strand” metaphor is deliberate; although we can analytically distinguish between the strands, and one might focus activities or exhibits on a particular strand, ultimately all must be woven together to produce learning capable of supporting the load put on it. Put another way: what actually happens in media presentations, community discussions, or in any other informal environments? According to the six strands, learners who engage with science in informal environments: Strand 1: Experience excitement, interest, and motivation to learn about phenomena in the natural and physical world. To be excited about something, to be motivated to explore, is to learn. Although some people think of excitement and motivation as prior to learning, both common sense and research show that people learn best when they are interested in the topic. Therefore, the report argues that excitement, interest, and motivation must be considered part of learning. Strand 2: Come to generate, understand, remember and use concepts, explanations, arguments, models and facts related to science. This strand captures the traditional idea of subject competence: there are certain facts and principles that one learns and learns to use.

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Strand 3: Manipulate, test, explore, predict, question, observe, and make sense of the natural and physical world. For many scientists, the idea of learning “the scientific method” is crucial to learning science. Many popular science or science outreach materials also highlight the ability to learn the processes and tools of scientific work and exploration. Notice that the wording of this strand reinforces an asocial understanding of scientific method at odds with the social construction approach used in most contemporary social studies of science. Strand 4: Reflect on science as a way of knowing; on processes, concepts and institutions of science; and on their own process of learning about phenomena. Learning researchers have shown that reflecting on what one has been exposed to is a crucial component of turning experience into learning. In the case of science, this reflection needs to look at not only the concepts and processes of science, but also the institutions and organisations that shape the social world in which reliable knowledge about the natural world is produced. Strand 5: Participate in scientific activities and learning practices with others using scientific language and tools. For science, learning can happen not just by learning content and method, but also by participating in real science, through programmes such as “citizen science” or “public participation in scientific research”. Strand 6: Think about themselves as science learners and develop an identity as someone who knows about, uses and sometimes contributes to science. I consider this strand among the most important in understanding science learning. Consider the common experience of many people who work in science or science-related fields: You are at a party and someone asks what you do. You say something about science. The other person responds: “Oh, I just barely passed my high school science class with the lowest possible grade. I am so glad I haven’t had to deal with science since then.” That person does not believe that he or she can learn science. She or he doesn’t have an identity as a “science learner”. They do not understand themselves to be people who can continue to learn science throughout their lives. Part of


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learning science is learning that one can learn science, acquiring a selfimage or self-identity as a science learner. Most of these strands are not unique to informal environments or to science. Nonetheless, they have nuances that are important to understand, especially for people in the science communication world. Strands 2 to 5 should look familiar to anyone who is interested in learning; they fit both common sense and other definitions of learning (including a definition used in the earlier NRC report on Taking science to school). Strands 1 and 6 are less common, but are nonetheless critical for understanding learning. Moreover, while not unique to informal environments, those two strands highlight affordances that are particularly strong in informal environments. These strands interweave and reinforce each other. They provide a means of understanding how people of different ages build on their experiences to learn science. For practitioners of informal science education, they provide a tool for understanding the relationship between their work with informal audiences and their work with schools (of all levels). A college student can use the resources in a science museum to supplement materials presented in a formal course. A label can highlight that a curator participates actively in a conservation organisation and is an “advocate” for a particular species. That information moves the visitor beyond the idea of scientists as disinterested observers or inquisitors of nature and recognises the social role that they play. That role might involve research, engagement in the process and the institutions of science, and commitment to public outreach. I want to call particular attention to the presence of “institutions” in the fourth strand. As a member of the science studies community, I believe deeply that better public understanding of science should include an understanding of the complex social processes that lead to the production of reliable knowledge about the natural world. When I say that people should know something about “the scientific method”, I do not mean the “hypothetico-deductive method” or “falsification”, the types of methods that might be implied by the third strand. I mean the messy, human, institution- and funding-influenced interaction of actors, networks, social groups, boundary objects, technological momentum, and [insert here your favourite concept from contemporary history and sociology of science]. Yet, in the context of a consensus report that had to pass muster with the National Academy of Sciences review process, in which many people on the “science” side of the 1990s “Science Wars” might participate, it was very difficult to defend with “scientific evidence” the insights into knowledge production that historians and sociologists of science take for

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granted. I am glad that the word “institutions” provides a hook for including the lessons of science studies, but I am also aware of the challenges still ahead for bringing science studies into the mainstream of what it means to “learn” science. Nonetheless, progress is possible. For example, science museums are especially well-placed to address the social and institutional aspects of science learning identified in strand 4. Museums can offer personal interaction, especially with staff scientists or docents who have personal experience. Science museums can also reflect on their own institutional presence. Some of the largest science museums are major cultural institutions in their cities and countries. Museums such as the Deutsches Museum in Munich, the Science Museum in London, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, the Natural History museums of Vienna, London, New York, and Washington, DC–they are all in substantial, “monumental” buildings. In and of itself, that observation can be an opportunity for reflecting on the place of science in society. Sometimes museum staff may be hesitant to exploit this opportunity, understanding the now-discredited imperial impulses behind some of these monumental constructions (Sheets-Pyenson 1988). But museums can claim the opportunity as a classic “teachable moment”, becoming ideal places to explore the relationship between national history and cultures and our knowledge of the natural world both at home and abroad. Science museums can show how science and technology are enmeshed in society by highlighting the funding that comes from wars, imperial exploration, economic needs, etc. They can take advantage of controversies to show the interaction of cultural values, scientific findings and the meanings that populations make of science.

Conclusion The report includes twenty-five conclusions and recommendations, more than can be summarised here. In part because of this complexity, the National Research Council also produced a companion volume, Surrounded by science (Fenichel and Schweingruber 2010), directly targeted to the practitioner community and containing many examples and stories of how to put the findings into practice. Few if any of the examples highlight the social context most important to historians and sociologists of science. From the experience of serving on the committee that produced the LSIE report, I take several lessons. First, standards of evidence remain a crucial difference in the arguments among scientists, social scientists,


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humanists, and practitioners. While such a statement approaches a “truism”, it nonetheless remains fundamental to understanding how this field of “science and public” can progress. Unlike many areas of intellectual inquiry, this field draws explicitly both intellectually and materially from very different fields, and fostering continuing constructive discussions among these groups requires active work. The very success of the report–it has been widely discussed in the ISE community and references to it are frequent in grant proposals, requests for proposals and similar documents–leads to the second, related conclusion: despite the difficulty of crossing boundaries (because of language, evidentiary standards, etc.), the field of science and public can bring together ideas from the many fields that comprise it. While people in the field have diverse motivations–improving science literacy, questioning the very notion of science literacy, addressing science policy, understanding public culture, etc.–they have much to learn from each other. Finally, I think the conversations among the committee members themselves and continuing conversations I have had with members of the committee in the several years since the report was issued are examples of the kind of invisible college, collegial network, virtual team, or other names for collective forms of knowledge production in the field of science and public that need to be encouraged and sustained.

Notes 1. More completely, the NRC functions as the operating arm of “the National Academies” (plural), which includes the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. 2. Because the National Academies and the NRC are quasi-governmental organisations, their reports have semi-official status. Therefore, a disclaimer: what I write here is necessarily an unofficial summary. For the full details, the report can be downloaded at no charge from the National Academies Press website, 3. For more information about the National Academies’ study process, see 4. One conference, of course, is the “Science and the Public” series that generated this volume. Other recent compilations include the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Sackler Symposium on “The Science of Science Communication” (videos are available at /completed_colloquia/science-communication.html) and a special issue of Science and Engineering Ethics on public engagement (Fisher 2011).

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5. The committee’s website is %20environment.html. 6. A diagram describing the concept is at

Acknowledgements My thanks to my fellow members on the NRC’s “Learning science in informal environments” committee for all their hard work and insight. Some of the purely descriptive language about the LSIE report appears in other documents I have authored or co-authored, including (Shouse et al. 2010) and (Lewenstein 2013).

References Bell, Philip, Bruce V. Lewenstein, Andrew Shouse and Michael Feder, eds. 2009. Learning science in informal environments: people, places, and pursuits. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Bransford, John, Ann L. Brown and Rodney R. Cocking, eds. 2000. How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school. Expanded edition. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Duschl, Richard A., Heidi A. Schweingruber and Andrew W. Shouse, eds. 2007. Taking science to school: learning and teaching science in grades K-8. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Fenichel, Marilyn, and Heidi A. Schweingruber. 2010. Surrounded by science: learning science in informal environments. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Fisher, Erik. 2011. Editorial overview. Science and Engineering Ethics 17(4): 607-620. Hilgartner, Stephen. 2000. Science on stage: expert advice as public drama. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. Irwin, Alan, and Brian Wynne, eds. 1996. Misunderstanding science? The public reconstruction of science and technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lewenstein, Bruce V. 1994. A survey of public communication of science and technology activities in the United States. In When science becomes culture, ed. B. Schiele, 119-178. Boucherville, Quebec: University of Ottawa Press. ʊ. 2013. What visitors to science museums can learn about the relation of science and technology. In Relationships between science and


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technology as presented in exhibits, ed. R. Bud and L. Zwisler, in press. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. Lewenstein, Bruce V., and Steven W. Allison-Bunnell. 2000. Creating knowledge in science museums: serving both public and scientific communities. In Science centers for this century, ed. B. Schiele and E.H. Koster, 187-208. St. Foy, Quebec: Editions Multimondes. Rader, Karen A., and Victoria Cain. 2008. From natural history to science: display and the transformation of American museums of science and nature. Museum and Society 6(2): 152-171. Rieppel, Lukas. 2012. Bringing dinosaurs back to life: exhibiting prehistory at the American Museum of Natural History. Isis 103(3): 460-490. Royal Society. 1985. The public understanding of science. London: Royal Society. Sawyer, R. Keith, ed. 2006. The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. Sheets-Pyenson, Susan. 1988. Cathedrals of science: the development of colonial natural history museums during the late nineteenth century. Kingston, Ont.: Mcgill-Queen’s University Press. Shouse, Andrew, Bruce V. Lewenstein, Philip Bell and Michael Feder. 2010. Crafting museum experiences in light of research on learning: implications of the National Research Council’s report on informal science education. Curator 53(2): 137-154. Ziman, John. 1991. Public understanding of science. Science, Technology, & Human Values 16(1): 99-105.



Initial Reflections Nanotechnology is everywhere: in sun lotions, instant meals, clothing, medical treatments, etc. New technologies such as nanotechnology offer great opportunities for a better future, but their use may also involve risks in some cases. Nanotechnology is a rapidly developing technology with a growing importance in people’s everyday lives. It affects the public to a great extent. For this reason, it is currently essential for the public to deal with this topic and to have a basic knowledge about the usage of nanotechnology, about the benefits and risks of this new technology, and also about nanotechnological research methods and results. This knowledge is an important prerequisite to be able to deal with this issue in a conscious and reflective manner. However, surveys have shown that when compared to other fields of natural science, such as genetics, the general public has a very low level of knowledge about nanotechnology and only a very vague conception of the associated research approaches (Cobb and Macoubrie 2004; European Commission 2008; Gaskell et al. 2006; Kahan et al. 2009). Thus, public understanding of nanotechnology and nanotechnological research, as well as the willingness to deal with such topics, has gained increasing significance in adult education. However, despite numerous efforts and a steadily increasing number of activities, courses and practitioners in science communication in general (Burns et al. 2003), and

Understanding of Science via Research Areas in Science Museums


more specifically in the field of nanotechnology (e.g. Alexander et al. 2012), there is still a wide gap between scientific research and development in the area of nanotechnology and basic public knowledge of this topic (Zimmer et al. 2008). Based on this fact, an initiative called “NANOTOTOUCH”, funded by the European Commission, was established with the intention of creating an innovative place for the general public to learn about nanotechnology and to get in touch with current nanotechnological research methods by watching and talking to real scientists during their work. The present article describes the evaluative research results regarding the cognitive and motivational outcomes of this initiative. In the next two sections, the theoretical background on cognitive and motivational goal variables of the study will be presented. Subsequently, the specific characteristics of the museum as a learning environment and the main ideas behind the NANOTOTOUCH project will be outlined, eventually leading to the objectives of the study. On this basis, the methodological approach of the study and its results are presented and discussed.

Scientific Literacy, Public Understanding of Science and Public Understanding of Research A central aim of formal and informal education is to impart scientific issues to the public. The construct of scientific literacy has a long tradition. It was originally introduced by Hurd (1958), who defined scientific literacy as an understanding of science and its applications in social experience. Scientific literacy is multidimensional; besides knowledge components and a positive attitude toward science, it also contains components of effective processing of scientific contents (OECD 2007). Two very important and partly similar definitions exist, which have great impact on the design and goals of educational activities in both formal and informal learning environments. One definition, by Bybee (1997), builds the basis for the PISA assessment of scientific literacy. Based on Bybee et al. (2009, 866), a scientifically literate person should be able to: (a) use the knowledge to identify questions, to acquire new knowledge, to explain scientific phenomena, and to draw evidence-based conclusions about science-related issues; (b) understand the characteristic features of science as a form of human knowledge and inquiry; (c) be aware of how science and technology shape our material, intellectual, and cultural environments; and (d) be willing to engage in science-related issues and with the ideas of science as a constructive, concerned and reflective citizen.


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Within the context of informal education, the concept of “civic scientific literacy”, based on Miller (1998), is rather popular. According to Miller (1998, 2004), a scientifically literate person is able to: (a) understand and respect the impact of science and technology on everyday life; (b) make informed personal decisions on science-related topics; (c) read and understand media reports on scientific evidence; (d) reflect critically on the information included therein; and (e) confidently take part in discussions. Miller (1998) also states that the measurement of civic scientific literacy should include two basic dimensions. The first dimension contains a basic knowledge of the vocabulary of scientific terms and concepts. The second dimension describes an understanding of the processes or methods of science for testing models of reality, thereby focusing on the research regarding a subject matter. Miller also refers to a third dimension, which focuses on the awareness of the impact of science and technology on individuals and on society. However, in his opinion this dimension is difficult to assess due to its cross-cultural differences. The acquisition and transfer of knowledge and information regarding the first two aspects of this broad concept of scientific literacy can take place in various learning environments. Closely related to the construct of scientific literacy are the concepts of public understanding of science (PUS) und public understanding of research (PUR), which are often used as target dimensions in informal learning environments. Based on Durant et al. (1989), PUS describes a dialogue between science and the public aimed at making scientific topics available and understandable for laypersons. PUR focuses on the communication of scientific research (Field and Powell 2001). The acquisition of both of these concepts, as well as the concept of scientific literacy, are closely connected to the public’s motivational preconditions for engaging in learning activities regarding science-related topics. As such, in the next section, we focus on relevant characteristics of motivational processes and their prerequisites.

Situational Interest and its Conditioning Factors As mentioned above, the motivation-related focus of scientific literacy, PUS and PUR depends on the willingness to engage in scientific issues. From the perspective of motivation theory, this quality of motivation is captured by theoretical concepts dealing with self-determined and interestbased motivation (Deci and Ryan 2002; Krapp 2002). Especially in freechoice learning environments, these qualities of motivation play a crucial role, because they describe a central motivational requirement on the part

Understanding of Science via Research Areas in Science Museums


of the audience to get in touch with a topic voluntarily and to be willing to acquire knowledge regarding selected content. When focusing on interest, one can distinguish between situational interest developed in a concrete (learning) situation and longer lasting individual interest (Krapp 2002). Regarding museum visits, the development of situational interest seems to be a crucial and realistic aim for the broad museum audience and one that is worthy of support. Situational interest describes a motivational quality that occurs in a current (learning) situation and is linked to this situation (Hidi and Renninger 2006; Krapp 2002). Two components of situational interest can be distinguished: catch and hold (Mitchell 1993), which are also called triggered and maintained interest (Hidi and Renninger 2006). The catch component describes the first occurrence of the situational interest. In this phase, a person’s attention is drawn to a certain issue, and curiosity toward this issue is aroused. The hold component describes a lasting (stabilised) situational interest in the current learning situation. In this phase, a person wants to deal with a certain issue; he or she perceives the issue as meaningful and wants to learn more about it. The repeated activation of the hold phase is supposed to support the development of an individual’s interest in the longer term (Hidi and Renninger 2006; Krapp 2002; Krapp and Prenzel 1992). From a motivation-theoretical perspective, a relevant condition for the development of interest is the emotional experience during an action (Deci and Ryan 2002; Krapp 2002)–more precisely, the experience of autonomy, competence and social relatedness. According to self-determination theory, these are called basic needs (Deci and Ryan 2002), whereby the need for competence describes a person’s effort to feel “effective”. The person wants to master the given demands of a task or learning situation on his/her own, and wants to feel neither unchallenged nor overstrained. The need for relatedness states that human beings have a strong wish for satisfactory social contacts; they want to feel accepted and recognised by relevant others. The need for autonomy describes a person’s effort to be an independent actor. The person wants to set his/her own goals and act in line with his/her integrated self, and does not want to be controlled by others. The extent to which these basic needs are fulfilled is a strong predictor of the development of situational and individual interests. Therefore, it is important to support these experiences in order to foster visitors’ interest on both manifestations. The characteristics and opportunities of the museum context for supporting the development of scientific literacy and interest-based motivation are described and discussed in the next section.


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Museums as Places to Support Scientific Literacy and Interest in Science Science museums are free-choice learning environments (Falk and Dierking 2000) that are highly suitable for communicating scientific topics to a wide audience; as such, they offer the opportunity to support the development of scientific literacy and interest-based motivation. Based on their self-image and their task description (see ICOM 2004), the central aims of museums involve knowledge transfer and fostering visitors’ interest development. Museums are unique environments, because they bring an extract of reality to people who usually do not have the chance to see or come into contact with those phenomena (Gibson and Chase 2002). Furthermore, science museums are linked to the scientific community and therefore, they are an ideal platform for communicating current science to a wide audience. They are not only focused on special interest groups or visitors with a basic interest in science, but they also strive to reach the entire range of visitors with all types of attitudes toward science (Overskaug et al. 2010; Wersig and Graf 2000). Museums offer a very idiosyncratic range of interactions with science topics. As museums offer many choices and possibilities for creating unique learning activities and as visitors have a heterogeneous background with regard, for example, to prior knowledge and motivation, each visitor has an individual visit experience. As the learning environment museum is multifaceted and rather different from formal learning environments, Falk and Dierking (2000; Falk 2006) have developed a contextual model of learning that describes and organises the various influencing factors of a museum learning experience. The model involves three overlapping contexts: personal, sociocultural, and physical. It identifies key factors of these three contexts that have a constitutive meaning for the learning process and the course of the visit. The physical context includes advance organisers and orientation, architecture and design, and reinforcing events and experiences outside the museum. Regarding the physical context, the design of the learning environment (e.g., the degree of structure and activation, tasks or media, non-personal or personal information supply) has proved to be an overall significant factor as learning is highly context-specific (e.g., Bransford et al. 1999; Lave and Wenger 1991). Among other things, museum research shows that exhibition design features have an influence on the learning process itself (Bitgood and Patterson 1995; Serrell 1996), as well as on the number of exhibit elements a visitor attends and for how long (Bitgood et

Understanding of Science via Research Areas in Science Museums


al. 1994; Serrell 1998). Furthermore, the acquisition of knowledge can be constrained if visitors are not familiar with the museum and, as such, have problems with their orientation in the museum (Anderson and Lucas 1997). The sociocultural context considers within-group sociocultural mediation and the facilitative mediation by others. As part of the sociocultural context, interaction between the visitors and the museum staff is a crucial aspect, which can be also explained by psychological theories such as those on expert–lay communication (Bromme and Rambow 1998, 2001). It has also been proven in several museum research studies that museum visitors are strongly influenced by the interactions and collaborations they conduct with individuals within their visiting group (Crowley and Callanan 1998; Ellenbogen 2002), as well as outside this group, through interactions with museum explainers, guides and communicators, and even other visitors. Both groups can profoundly influence visitor learning (Crowley and Callanan 1998; Wolins et al. 1992). Relevant factors for the personal context are visitor prerequisites, such as prior knowledge, motivation and expectations, and interests and beliefs. Psychological and museum research have confirmed the influences of prior knowledge and experience on learning in general (Kalyuga et al. 2003; Kirschner et al. 2006; Kyllonen and Lajoie 2003) and on museum learning in particular (Falk and Adelman 2003; Hein 1998; Roschelle 1995), as it builds the background with which to recognise and select relevant information and integrate it into the individual’s body of knowledge. The individual’s motivational preconditions and expectations have proven relevant for formal and informal learning in several studies. For example, long-lasting thematic interest that exists prior to the visit has been shown to be highly relevant in the selection of information and exhibits, as well as in the intensity of dealing with the information or exhibits in different learning situations such as the museum context (e.g., Adelman et al. 2000; Falk and Adelman 2003; Krapp and Prenzel 2011; Renninger and Hidi 2011). Furthermore, self-efficacy plays an important role in the motivation to deal with new information in an unknown environment, as well as in knowledge acquisition. People must feel able to engage successfully with challenging topics, as this demands cognitive effort. This is why self-efficacy plays an important role in cognitive processing of information, as well as in motivation (Pintrich 1999). People with high self-efficacy might deal with new information more persistently and intensively (Bandura 1977, 1997; Liem et al. 2008). After considering the three contexts of influence described in the contextual model of learning (Falk 2006; Falk and Dierking 2000), we


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now focus on the specific design of the learning environments developed within the NANOTOTOUCH project. Knowledge transfer in the museum context can be either non-personal (by media and exhibits) or personal (by museum educators and guided tour assistants). In the NANOTOTOUCH project, the concept of personal transfer of knowledge was chosen by establishing a direct communication platform between visitors and nanotechnology researchers.

The Idea of NANOTOTOUCH (NTT) Based on the theoretical background described above, university– museum cooperation was founded to establish research areas in museums and science centres. Most of the research areas have a fully functional nano-research laboratory situated in the public space of the museum, where researchers conduct their work in full public view. Visitors thus receive an insight into the processes and methods of a modern laboratory by observing how doctorate and graduate students obtain data from their instruments and how these are processed or discarded. This insight enables visitors to explore various aspects of the scientists’ daily tasks, as well as to discuss openly any research-related topic with them. These research areas enable visitors to get in touch with nanotechnology by observing and talking to real university researchers working on their research projects, such as their dissertation or Master’s thesis (see Ecsite 2011). In this manner, there is an open dialogue between the scientist and the public. Depending on the visitor’s interest, the researcher provides information on a selection of the following topics during his/her interaction with the visitor: an introduction into nanosciences and nanotechnologies; topic of his/her research; and personal motives for doing research, as well as goals, visions, problems and daily routines. Objects, videos, nano-demonstrations and nano-products are all incorporated. The scientist gives nano-demonstrations, explains nanoproducts and initiates conversations with museum visitors. A significant amount of time is allocated for questions and discussion. This is where the main dialogue between the public and the scientists is expected to take place. The concept of the research area is based on the public display of research and the corresponding interaction of the scientists with a broad public. Thus, it is immediately apparent that the scientists, their communication skills and their instruments play a central role. Here, close cooperation between the university and the science museum/science centre is absolutely essential, with the former providing the scientists and the

Understanding of Science via Research Areas in Science Museums


research topics, and the latter offering space as well as communication and presentation expertise. For a better illustration of the research areas, the following describes an example of a visit. A visitor group of two people passes the research area; they stop and watch the scientist carrying out his/her research activities. The scientist initiates a conversation and invites the visitors to ask him/her questions about nanotechnology in general and his/her research activities in particular. The conversation between the scientist and the visitors starts. During the conversation, the scientist presents nanoexperiments and explains his/her research instruments. The visitors gain insight into the everyday work of a nano-scientist and learn more about the content of nanotechnology in a way that is perfectly adapted to their prior knowledge. It is obvious that a scientist working in a public environment is the key point of the NTT approach. Such a “public scientist” is confronted with a number of challenges in the fields of science communication, knowledge exchange and work environment. He or she needs general communication skills, as well as competencies in communicating values and personal information. Therefore, in order to prepare the scientists for this challenging task, professional training was provided in the form of two two-day workshops. The first workshop took part before the implementation of the research areas and focused on the content of social issues connected with nanotechnology and on practical examples and exercises to stimulate the communication skills of the participants. The second workshop took part six months after the setup of the research areas and dealt with gathering, analysing, and disseminating the experiences of the young scientists in the various research areas. As this description shows, the NTT approach strives to provide a focused and personalised insight into nanoscience and present the manifold processes of research, as well as the positive and problematic aspects of new discoveries and new directions for exploration (Hicks 2011). In doing so, it aims to support the understanding of nanotechnology topics and research, as well as the development of situational interest in this topic. The present study focused on evaluating the extent to which these objectives could be achieved.

Objectives of the Study The main goal of this study was to determine visitors’ situational interest in nanotechnology during their visit to an NTT research area, as well as the potential of these research areas to foster visitors’ subjectively


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perceived knowledge about nanotechnology and research in nanotechnology as three core aspects of scientific literacy, PUS and PUR. Furthermore, the study aimed to identify relevant factors influencing increases in visitors’ situational interests and their subjectively perceived knowledge during their interaction with the scientists, in order to optimise the learning environment. Based on this objective, the following research questions provided guidance for the design and data analysis of the study: 1. To what extent could visitors’ situational interest be aroused, and their basic needs satisfaction be fulfilled, during a visit to NTT research areas in museums? 2. To what extent is the experience of a visitor’s basic needs related to his/her level of situational interest during a visit to NTT research areas in museums? 3. To what extent did visitors perceive an increase in their understanding of nanotechnological topics and research after their visit to NTT research areas? 4. What personal and situational factors are related to visitors’ perceived increase of understanding of nanotechnological topics and research during their visit to NTT research areas in museums?

Method Design of the Study and Instruments Used The study was conducted in five museums and science centres in four countries: AHHAA Science Center Tartu (Estonia), Deutsches Museum München (Germany), Museo della Scienza et della Technologia Leonardo da Vinci Milan and Città della Scienza Naples (Italy), Universeum Gothenburg (Sweden). In every research area, at least two scientists communicated with the public and were involved in the survey. During the survey period, all visitors who had communicated with the scientists were asked to give an interview based on a standardised interview guideline after their visit to the research area. The interview guideline was constructed in English and translated into the respective national languages

Understanding of Science via Research Areas in Science Museums

Scales used

Example item

Perceived increase of knowledge – nano topics

I think I have received an impression of what is meant by nanotechnology

Perceived increase of knowledge – nano research

I think I have received an impression of the actual research content the scientist is conducting

Communication skills – general

List of several communication skills to be rated (e.g., using basic, simplified language; not too many technical terms)

Communication skills – personal

List of several communication skills about own experiences to be rated (e.g., talks about personal experiences; talks about his own opinion)

Self-efficacy as to the understanding of nanotechnology

I believe that I am able to successfully comprehend the basics of nanotechnology

No. of items



1 Not at all 2 Hardly 3 A little 4 Well 5 Very well


1 Not at all 2 Hardly 3 A little 4 Well 5 Very well


1 Poor 2 Fair 3 Sometimes good 4 Mostly good 5 Always good


1 Poor 2 Fair 3 Sometimes good 4 Mostly good 5 Always good


1 Not at all true 2 Barely true 3 Moderately true 4 Quite true 5 Exactly true





New development based on Miller (1998)


New development based on Miller (1998)


Adapted from Cegala et al. (1998) and Takahashi et al. (2006)


Adapted from Cegala et al. (1998) and Takahashi et al. (2006)


Adapted from Schwarzer and Schmitz (1999)

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Situational interest – Catch

Situational interest – Hold

Basic needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness

To what extent could parts of the research area attract your attention? To what extent did you find it important to deal with the subject matter of the research area? During the visit I had the feeling that I could understand even difficult subject matter




1 Not at all 2 Hardly 3 A little 4 Quite 5 Very 1 Not at all 2 Hardly 3 A little 4 Quite 5 Very

1 Not at all 2 Hardly 3 A little 4 Quite 5 Very


Lewalter and Geyer (2009)


Lewalter and Geyer (2009)


Adapted from IMI (Deci and Ryan 2005)

Table 3.1. Scales used in the study languages by professional translators. It included scales for cognitive outcome variables (self-estimated knowledge increase of nano-content and nano-research), as well as motivational outcome variables of the visit (situational interest, basic needs satisfaction), and situational and personal determinants (perceived communication skills of the scientist, self-efficacy regarding the understanding of nanotechnology) (see Table 3.1). The acceptance of the research area (“Overall, how would you evaluate this research area?” 1–very poor to 5–excellent), prior knowledge about nanotechnology (“How would you describe your expertise in the area of nanotechnology?” 1–very low to 5–very high), self-estimated duration of the visit, interest in nanotechnology as a whole, job relation to nanotechnology, and socio-demographic data were assessed via single items. The inquiry was conducted based on a standardised instruction. A systematic random sample selection method was used. Furthermore, more detailed, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a subsample of visitors at the Deutsches Museum in Munich to obtain a more differentiated insight into the visitors’ perceptions of the visit. These interviews were also conducted directly after the visitor had finished his/her dialogue with the scientist. These interviews focused especially on the visitor’s perceived learning increase.

Understanding of Science via Research Areas in Science Museums


Description of the Sample Data was collected from a total of 522 visitors (minimum age 12 years) who were equally distributed over the locations. 110 visitors were interviewed in Munich, 98 in Gothenbourg, 102 in Milan, and 106 each in Naples and Tartu. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 visitors at the Deutsches Museum. The 522 visitors showed a relatively well-balanced gender spread: 53.4% were female and 46.4% were male. Visitors were between 12 and 82 years old, for an average of 29.53 (SD=15.76) years. Noticeable is the visitors’ high level of education even for museum visitors, who are known for their rather high level of education (e.g., Graf and Noschka-Roos 2009). 41.4% of the interviewees had a university degree. The self-estimated prior knowledge about nanotechnology was rather low (M=2.14, SD=1.02). Most visitors described their knowledge about nanotechnology as very low (n=157, 30.1%) or low (n=190, 36.4%), while 23.9% (n=125) reported little knowledge and only about 9% stated high (n=29) or very high (n=16) knowledge about nanotechnology before the visit. Only a small number of visitors reported having a job related to nanotechnology (n=54, 10.3%). On the other hand, 39.5% (n=206) of the interviewees indicated a general interest in nanotechnology. Regarding self-efficacy in terms of dealing with the subject of nanotechnology, the interviewees on average estimated their level at 3.5 (SD=.92), indicating they feel confident about their own ability to understand the subject of nanotechnology. In summary, the audience can be characterised by rather low prior knowledge, but a high motivation to deal with the topic of nanotechnology.

General Characterisation of the Visit to the Research Area Regarding the general situation during the visit, it must be stated that most of the visitors (n=316, 60.5%) were already acquainted with the museum due to former visits. Only 38.9% (n=203) were visiting the museum for the first time. The average perceived duration of the visit was a little over half an hour (M=36.75 minutes, SD=35.82), with a range of 1–300 minutes (see Figure 3.1). Most visitors stayed 10 minutes (n=81), 1 hour (n=67), or 5 minutes (n=61). In general, only about one-third of the visits (30.3%) lasted less than 15 minutes (n=158); 21.8% lasted 15–29 minutes (n=114), 15.1% (n=79) of visitors stayed 30–59 minutes, 141 persons (27.01%) visited the research areas 1–2 hours, and 2.9 % (n=15) of the visitors

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90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 1 5 7 10 15 17 20 30 40 49 55 65 68 75 90 120 160 300

number of visitors

stayed longer than two hours. 25 persons (4.8%) were unable to estimate the duration of their visit to the research area.

minutes Figure 3.1. Duration of visits in minutes

On average, the visitors were rather satisfied with their visit to the research area and rated the concept as “quite good” (4.20; SD=.72). Very few visitors rated the visit “very poor” (n=7) or “poor” (n=21); 94 visitors estimated the visit as “moderate”, while most visitors rated it “quite good” (n=237) or “excellent” (n=140). The scientists’ general communication skills were perceived as “mostly well” by the visitors (M=4.21, SD=.72) while the scientists’ communication skills regarding their personality was perceived only as “partly well” to “mostly well” (M=3.63, SD=1.07).

Results Question 1 Besides promoting support for an understanding of nanotechnology, especially nanotechnological research, a central objective of NTT was to foster the public’s attitudes and interest in these domains during their visit to a research area, as situational interest is a central prerequisite for dealing with a particular topic in a free-choice learning environment. Therefore, as described above, the motivational variables, situational

Understanding of Science via Research Areas in Science Museums


interest and basic needs were considered in the survey. The findings concerning these variables are summarised in Figure 3.2. The average level of situational interest “Catch” was slightly higher (M=3.93, SD=.84) than that of situational interest “Hold” (M=3.54, SD=.97). In general, both means of situational interest were quite high. This finding indicates that the scientists managed quite well to arouse the visitors’ initial interest and to sustain it during the visit. Regarding “Catch”, only 6 visitors had a mean lower than 1.5 and were not “caught” at all, while 17 visitors stated a low level of situational interest “Catch”. 87 visitors described a medium level of situational interest “Catch”. Most visitors reported a high (n=233) or very high (n=167) level of situational interest “Catch” (missing: n=12). With respect to “Hold,” only 10 visitors could not hold their situational interest at all, 65 visitors stated a low level of situational interest “Hold”, and 133 visitors showed a medium level of interest “Hold”. Most often, visitors were quite interested (n=189) and 118 visitors even stated a very high level of situational interest “Hold” (missing: n=7). Based on motivation theory (see above), relevant conditions to support the development of situational interest are experience of autonomy, competence, and social relatedness during an action. Therefore, it is important to promote these experiences to foster the development of visitors’ situational interest. Results of the self-reported level of basic needs met during the visit show the following picture. Regarding the experience of competence during the interaction, findings show a medium level (M=3.64, SD=1.08). Furthermore, visitors felt socially related to a high degree with their visitor group (M=4.12, SD=.98). Surprisingly, the social relatedness with the scientist was even higher (M=4.26, SD=.90) and actually reached the highest level of all experiences considered. This means that the visitors felt quite comfortable with the scientist and that the scientist managed to create a pleasant atmosphere during the interaction. With respect to the average experience of autonomy, visitors felt they could actively participate in the conversation (M=3.31, SD=1.28) and that the discussion met their expectations and personal goals quite well (M=3.66, SD=1.12). Furthermore, visitors felt they could participate in the conversation fairly well due to their own initiative (M=3.73, SD=1.30).


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situational interest - catch situational interest - hold competence relatedness - visitor group relatedness - scientist autonomy - own initiative autonomy - active participation autonomy - personal goals 1





Figure 3.2. Means of situational interest and basic needs satisfaction during the visit

Question 2 In order to optimise the motivational outcomes of the visit, we investigated to what extent basic needs satisfaction was related to the level of situational interest (“Catch” and “Hold”). To answer this research question, multiple regression analysis was conducted with SPSS 19.0. Multiple regression analysis is a statistical procedure that determines the relationship between a dependent variable and several independent variables. Given the independent variables, the conditional expected value of the dependent variable is estimated. A high ß coefficient indicates a high predictive power of an independent variable for the dependent

Understanding of Science via Research Areas in Science Museums


variable, which can be interpreted as a close connection between these two variables (Cohen et al. 2003). Based on the theoretical considerations on motivation mentioned above, the basic needs satisfaction for autonomy (active participation, personal goals and expectations, participation due to own drive), competence, and relatedness (to the visitor group and to the scientist) were taken into account as possible predictive factors. Situational interest–Catch. Regarding the situational interest “Catch”, nearly all variables had a highly significant predictive power, with the exception of the experience of autonomy regarding active participation (Table 3.2). The strongest predictor here was the perceived relatedness to the scientist. In sum, 49% of the variance of the situational interest “Catch” could be explained by the considered variables. Situational interest–Hold. With respect to the situational interest “Hold”, the explained variance by the predictor variables was 42%, which was slightly lower than for the “Catch” component, but still satisfactory. Competence and relatedness to the scientist had the highest predictive power. In addition, autonomy (participation due to the visitor’s own drive) and relatedness to the visitor group were significant predictors, while the other two facets of autonomy (expectations and goals; actively participated) were not significantly related to the situational interest “Hold”.

Competence Autonomy – expectations and goals Autonomy – active participation Autonomy – due to own initiative Relatedness – scientist Relatedness – visitor group R2

Catch ß P

Hold ß

.23 .13 -.05 .22 .31 .11 .49

.30 .06 -.04 .13 .32 .09 .43

** ** ** ** **

P ** * ** *

* p